I wouldn’t say I’m a slob. The toilets get scrubbed, I’m a champion when it comes to de-cluttering, and the sheets get changed. But I do possess a certain, ummm … blindness to grime. Since most cobwebs are above my sightline, I don’t notice them. The windows were last washed in 2008. Dusting really only occurs on those surfaces that see the most activity. I consider a healthy dirt population vital stimulation for my family’s immune system.
It’s not quite the same for Bob. Maybe it’s because he is significantly taller, so he sees more of the dust and cobwebs up there. Maybe (most likely) it has something to do with his waspy New England roots.
And while the vacuum cleaner is one of his personal power tools and he wields it with truly sexy masculine form, he generously lets the rest slide with only occasional gurgles of frustration … until company is on the horizon.
A few months ago, we learned that our good friends, the Bowies, would be visiting from England for one week this August. Bob began planning right away. Our house, the color of grayed-over untreated pine siding, was slowly stained an earthy brown with burgundy trim over the course of the summer. Our front porch was cleared of tools and lumber scraps. Deteriorating screen doors were repaired. In an effort to match his enthusiasm, I bought flowers for the front deck and attempted to keep them fertilized and watered. I stacked the firewood early.
As the days grew fewer, Bob’s efforts grew more intense. He would work at reshelving books, cleaning up his basket weaving supplies, and reorganizing the guest room. And then, he’d step out to where the girls and I were doing our best to stay out of his way … and moan at our mess. Saoirse’s yarn and felt scraps littered our floor. The contents of the costume bag were strewn across the living room. Ula is in the phase where she likes to pull all clothes out of drawers and scatter them across the bedroom floor as she puts together new outfits every 20 minutes. Clean and dirty five-year-old undies get mixed together and wind up in the most unexpected locations—under couch cushions, under desks, outside on the deck.
Saoirse and Ula can be recruited to help out to a certain degree, but their creativity and unwillingness to part with a single paper scrap makes them an obstruction to progress.
I’m not much better. No sooner are the leftovers from the last meal stored away than I have to begin cooking the next meal or testing the next recipe. The lamb harvest is coming in and there is fat to render, the bones need straining from the meat broth, and a few jars of fermented pickles sit out on the counter growing mold and bubbling over. My desk is a clutter of articles, books, receipts, bills, splattered and stained jotted-over recipes, phone messages, and disseminated important scribbles for future masterpieces jotted sideways and on the backs of envelopes and recycled paper. The contents spill over to the floor, confusing themselves with junk mail and wastepaper in such a way that no one but me is authorized to touch.
Tensions were starting to grow last week with only seven days until the Bowies’ arrival. I was working at my desk, the kids were on the carpet behind me, and Bob walked through, looked at our detritus and actually moaned with anxiety.
My temper grew short. “We can’t just stop living to keep the house nice!” I snapped at him. He growled a few choice words back.
In spite of my defensiveness, I fully understood how he felt. I wanted our house to look nice, too. It only needed to be “perfect” just for one quiet moment when we brought the Bowies home. As long as we held together long enough to make a good impression, we would both be satisfied. He wasn’t asking for too much.
Saoirse and Ula can be recruited to help out to a certain degree, but their creativity and unwillingness to part with a single paper scrap make them an obstruction to progress. Rather than cleaning their craft areas, they turn the moment into gallery time, figuring out how to tape every little art project to the walls of the house. They set about picking up their toys upstairs, but soon decide that “cleaning” means meticulously arranging them in interesting and artful scenes from their imagination. At the same time, my being on the cusp of releasing a new book as the fall meat harvest begins keeps my farm, computer, and desk demands high.
|Shannon Hayes is the author of Radical Homemakers.|