Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Cleaning ... in ... the Twilight Zone

Did you know you're supposed to clean the legs of your chairs? You can be honest, no one’s judging you here. I didn’t know, until I came home from work to find our housekeeper smoothing lemon-fresh Pledge across the curvy-carved, fake veneers of my wannabe French Country chairs.

Is this something people do? Sure, if a glob of spaghetti sauce dropped on the chair, I’d give it a swipe, but otherwise I’d never give those appendages a thought. Do they even get dirty? I did what I always do when I’m stumped. I called my mother. Sure enough, dirt and dust accumulate there just like anywhere else. Who knew? Not me.
That is why I use a professional.
Celia started cleaning our house eleven years ago and the twins were only two. I had quit work to stay at home with the boys and we had no money and I had no sanity and the house was such a disaster that FEMA had set up a trailer in my back yard. My choices were Celia or Social Services. 

My children adored Celia because she left a chocolate on their beds and artfully arranged their stuffed animals in adorable poses. She taught them words in Portuguese like soap and water, and tell-your-mother-to-pick-up-a-broom-once-in-a-while. One time I found her teaching them how to use the vacuum, probably in the hopes they would eventually teach me.

I adored Celia because she cleaned my house. And she came back, no matter how bad it got. She also crafted paper roses out of our toilet paper and folded geometrical designs into the top layers of our Kleenex.
I know, right? She's very good. Sometimes too good.
I hang decorative ceramic dishes on the walls of my kitchen and dining room. It never occurred to me I should clean these plates, which, let me stress, never get used. They just hang there. If a plop of spaghetti sauce were to land on one of them, (which in my house is a distinct possibility), I would definitely wipe all the red off. Otherwise, the plates stay put until they ultimately drop to their demise when one of the kids throws a balled sock or other makeshift missile "by mistake;" or stampedes on the floor above them with such admirable spirit that earthquaking vibrations ripple downward to send those dishes soaring and FEMA calling for backup.
So imagine my surprise when I came home and saw that Celia had taken all the plates down and washed them. They were, admittedly, very bright and shiny, and some of them were even different colors than they were that morning. That familiar feeling of despair came over me. So we're supposed to clean these too?!
Time to call mom. By this point, I could easily visualize her shaking her head dismayingly.
"Yes, dear, of course you need to wash those plates."
"But they don’t DO anything. They just sit there."
"It doesn’t matter, they still get grimy, especially if you're using the broiler or fying on the stove."
Well then I'm in the clear, I thought. My broiler's been broken for five years and I know full well not to take on a pan of boiling oil. No chance that would end well. I don't think my children have ever eaten a piece of fried chicken that hasn't come out of a bucket.
But I was beginning to see a trend here, and this trend was trending high.
One spring day I came home to find the silk curtains from our dining room removed and placed neatly into plastic bags. The cotton curtains from our sunroom had all been taken down, washed and dried. Celia, because she knows me all too well, had set up the ironing board and placed the mountain of folded curtains on top of it, along with the iron, in a not-too-subtle hint as to what my role in this crazy escapade was to be.
Scott gleefully came round the bend, his eyes bright with joy at what he was about to tell me. “Celia says to have the dining room curtains drycleaned and to iron the other ones.”
 “Dry-clean?” I asked stupefied. “Iron? I don’t understand.”
 “They need to be cleaned.”
“The curtains?”
“But why?” I whined. “Is there spaghetti sauce on them?”
My husband merely shrugged and went off in search of a snack, as if we hadn't just entered the Twilight Zone.
I twitched in horror at the sixteen panels laughing at me from their lofty perch atop that singed and sinister surfboard and did the only rational thing I could think of.
“Come on, Mom,” I literally cried. “This can’t be something people actually do?”
“Yes, sweetheart,” she patiently confirmed. “Curtains absorb odor.”
Odor? That's what all this silliness is about? I stopped caring about smells right about the time I gave birth to twin boys! It's called self preservation, my friend. My sons are now teenagers. Stinky wall hangings are way down the list of offending odors. How about I dryclean their feet?
But by this point I had started to worry about things I don’t know. I don’t mean things I don’t know like trigonometry or geometry or any “ometry” for that matter. I mean things I don’t even KNOW I don’t know.
I can see my poor family now, suffering from a rare form of lung disease brought about by a no-good sneaky bacteria that grows exclusively on chair leg dust, ceramic plate grime, or whatever it is that makes a perfectly good curtain need cleaning. The doctors would scramble to find an antibiotic to save our lives but would be stymied as to the exact course of action. They’d congregate in a circle in the corner of the hospital corridor whispering how no one’s ever gotten this particular strain of disease before. After all, who doesn’t dust their chair legs?

Mints in my Pocket: Enlightenmint, Improvemint