Back when I was a child, my grandmother would sponge leftover breakfast off my face with a spit dampened handkerchief and call it a “lick and a promise.” When applied to me in the entryway to our church, it meant I’d get a bath come bedtime. She also used that phrase in relation to housecleaning when passing a hasty duster over all the flat surfaces in her home on the unexpected arrival of guests or giving the kitchen a cursory cleaning before hurrying out the door for work. Of course my grandmother backed that up with a day of hard labor on Saturdays and ultimately with thorough spring and fall cleanings. I often think of her as I give my house a “lick and a promise” and hurry off to do something more interesting or fun. I haven’t done a spring or fall cleaning in my lifetime and I don’t usually back it up with a Saturday dedicated to cleaning the house, either.
Instead, my housecleaning seems to take on all the aspects of classic military mission creep. Like this past week, the day I needed to toss a few clothes in the washer before I ran out of clean underwear. Since my bed hadn’t been made yet anyway, I figured I might as well wash the sheets while I was at it. The mattress cover was cockeyed so I go to straighten it and notice how much dust has accumulated between upright posts of the bedframe. Didn’t I just clean that when my kids were here? Oh, wait! That was Christmas! Have I really been sleeping next to all this crud for the better part of a year?
I get the cleaning stuff out and begin running a rag between each of the posts. I love my bed, but it’s not the easiest to clean... and I realize I need to push the bed away from the wall to get at the backside. Which leads to the revelation that the dust on the under-bed storage bins is thick enough to write love letters in. Which further leads to the need to go unearth my vacuum from the over-full storage closet and suck up all the dust bunnies that have grown into lions. By now I have pretty much all the usual cleaning supplies gathered around me and I’ve succumbed to the inevitability of cleaning the entire bedroom. Which means taking down the curtains. All the time ignoring the nagging thought that it just might be dust I’m allergic to.
Hauling down the curtains reminds me that the rods are rusty and I’ve been meaning to replace them. They are rusty because I hate to turn on the AC and prefer to open my windows, which, lets in all the salt air along with the sound and scent of the sea.
“Hey, Duff? Wanna go for a ride?” Duffy loves to ride in the car, whatever the excuse! So, off we go to Home Depot where I find wooden rods with totally hidden hardware. Perfect! Back home, I hunt down all the required tools and begin that project. I’m already a long way beyond my original intention to do the laundry, but as the afternoon wears on, I come upon the stash of totes I hadn’t put away when I got home from summer in New England. I carry them to the storage closet. Which requires me to stop and organize that because I’d left everything pulled out of place when I went after the vacuum cleaner. The big duffle bags I’d shoved under the bed go out to the car to be taken back to my storage unit until next summer. A folder of mail buried under the cushions on the window seat gets taken to my desk and checked to make sure there isn’t something in it that should have been attended to weeks ago. All the odds and ends retrieved from the nooks and crannies of my suitcase and dumped on the bureau get dealt with. The stack of books I’d read but never put away are removed from the bedside table and re-shelved in the library. I replace the white duct tape I use to protect the leading edges of the cheap fan blades (But that’s a whole ‘nother story) in the ceiling fan. I even replace the dead bulb over the bathroom mirror and clean the bathroom.
By now it is well past three in the afternoon. I never did stop for lunch. I missed low tide and our usual walk on the beach. And I didn’t get the bills paid, which was my intention for the day. BUT! When all is reassembled, the room looks bright, clean and tidy. The new curtain rods are perfect. The air still has a hint of salt, but if dust is what I’m allergic to, I’ll sleep better tonight. And I’m almost certain my grandmother is smiling in approval.