Yesterday was cleaning day. This is when I don’t rest or leave the house until its surfaces are gleaming, there’s no bullshit on the benches (forms, junk mail, half-finished craft) and no nerf bullets in the pantry. It happens at least once a fortnight. I dread it and I am always ready to resent it, declare it against my feminist beliefs, but really it’s just another job that has to be done and if I’m not out there milking the cows for my keep, then it looks like it’s mine.
And as it turns out, I loathe it but I love it. I fucking hate cleaning showers and toilets but there is rarely a day for me (these days) that offers up such a tangible sense of achievement. And it’s mindless kind of work which gives me space to think about all kinds of things without feeling as though I’m wasting anyone’s time. For example:
- While scrubbing the kitchen sinks I am close to the kitchen radio and can listen clearly to the morning news. This is where I first hear about the Brussels terror attacks (evidently I had my head in the sand for a bit). I am able to give thanks to the fact that I can watch the sunrise from my kitchen sink and find the head-space to grumble about tiny things like dishwasher grit. I thank the universe that I live in about the safest place on earth and still have eyes to see dishwasher grit. And hands to scrub it away. And then I take out my frustration on the plug holes. “I’m sorry that you all can’t have the freedom and carelessness that I have”, I whisper to the Syrians and the loved ones of the lost when I pause to inspect the burgeoning snail population in the fish tank.
- While vacuuming I can think about the book I am reading, which is “A field Guide to Getting Lost” by Rebecca Solnit. Maggie (Mackellar – not to name drop or anything but yes Maggie Mackellar) gave it to me for my birthday last year and it’s the sort of book I will have to read a few times in my life. She’s amazing, this Rebecca, whose writing I don’t yet know well. What a brain, I think as I get out the pokey attachment to fit into the sliding door track where the bugs have clustered. She comes up with phrases like, “voluptuous surrender”. I decide that I will surrender my day, voluptuously (with a quick shoulders back glimpse in the mirror as I pass), to the ablution of my house and the good hygiene of my family. I put on a frilly apron and have a good wallow in longing – for all the the things I wish for such as an income and not cleaning – because Rebecca says that longing – “the blue of longing” – shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a negative. So I long, and it brings me precious memories and re-enforces ambitions. Then I vacuum up a school hairclip (a precious scarcity in our house) and have to stop everything to fish it out of the bowels of the machine.
- Under the clothes line, there is the smell of washed cotton and I think of lots of pleasant things, like how fond I am of the women in my district, who would all be hanging clothes on the line too, likely today when the sun is out and the breeze up. These women gathered together this week to help put on the Bream Creek Show, then we danced together at the end of the day. A few days later we were back together again to attend to a crisis. There were gins and tears and laughter and hugs and I ask the damp smalls, what would I do without my girls? Then the sheets slap me on the bottom as they flap and I jump like a coy teenager whose never been flirted with and then laugh because I was once pretty great at flirting and it’s become a bit of a forgotten art. So I toss my head at the flirty sheets as if to revise a move. And I have time – because the basket is full and the hanging takes time – to think of what I have left to do today, this week, this year… what is important and what is not. Underlinings. I unroll the sleeves of my husband’s work shirt and feel 19th cetury supportive; imagine myself in a bonnet, about to whack the carpets. And when the last sock is pegged on (where’s its pair? I say aloud with a sigh) I have to crank the line up at the end to catch the bit of sky where the breeze is wind. And from the doorway, when I’ve walked back to the house, I turn back to look at my completed work of art (interpretive dance? performance art? textile installation?) because it’s comparable to generations of women’s work.
- In the children’s bedrooms, I find the wrappers of sweets and do that tut-tut thing with my tongue behind my upper teeth that is peculiar to people with children. I whisper to the Easter Bunny that perhaps he bring a small egg only this year. And I think about the Mexican sugar tax, which is proving to reduce sales of sugary drinks and increase sales of water. Worth a try here? Probably. Obesity and type 2 diabetes is on the rise. I get a drink of water, and think about how I’ve always likes the green sweeties, while every one else fought over the reds.
- In the bathroom I switch on the shower and point it at the walls to rinse them, and I remember that it’s World Water Day, in which we need to think of the people who walk miles for clean water, and to shove the dirty water problem into the spotlight in the hopes that governments might fix the shit out of it. I switch off the water sooner than I might, and remember that it’s David Suzuki‘s 80th birthday. What a great man he is, I think. Has he been knighted yet? I wish people would listen to him more; one day he’ll be gone and everyone will be sorry.
- As I mop the floors – the final phase of Clean Day – I think of the cleaning being finished. And the licorice I might reward myself with. It’s hard to finish things these days. Everything I’m invested in at the moment won’t be ending anytime soon. Motherhood, for instance, and my children needing me and having to learn stuff and making a mess that I need to clean. Again.
On that note. I’m going to finish here in a minute. It’s Easter nearly, so we all need to finish up for a few days at least. (It’s Holy Week too; I know because I’ve had to send sheet and tea-towel costumes to school this week. Respect and solidarity to the parent who sent a fitted sheet for today’s Easter play, my favourite costume of all).
Happy Easter. Keep safe. xxx