Archive for May 2013
If you read the previous House of Mars post you know all about my relationship to cleaning; a truly dysfunctional one, dating all the way back to childhood Since these early rules were imposed by my mother, let’s call them matricentric. I’m not sure if that’s a real word, but I like its sound, so let’s extend it to patricentric because my father had a later hand in contributing to my work attitude, and it haunts me still.
As the years went by, we moved from the apartment in Harlem to a brick row house in the Bronx. The house had what we all wanted, which was very simple for my brothers and me – upstairs bedrooms. Ironically these very stairs strike fear in my heart when I recall Sundays, and what should have been a day of rest. Isn’t that what Sundays are supposed to be?
We’d be back from church and breakfast at the Pancake House. I’d have changed into – I don’t remember exactly what, but in today’s world it would be sweats. Ahh, there I was, all comfy and sprawled on the couch – my face hidden behind the Sunday comics. My mother would be in the kitchen, starting preparations for the Sunday roast. My brothers? I have no idea; perhaps they were wiser than me, and maintaining a low profile.
Yes, a typical sleepy Sunday…….until the dreaded sound of sneaker clad feet beginning their descent down the fifteen steps. By the twelfth step each aforementioned sneaker would come into view,and by step #10, neatly creased pants cuffs, tan or white depending on the season. I just knew that I had about five steps more before I’d hear the dreaded words – 9, 8, 7,6,5. Yes, at step#4, he’d glance at me and lean over the railing to call into the kitchen
“Mommy, do you have anything around the house for Virginia to do?”
The truly alarming thing is I’ve been hearing these words, louder and louder for each of the last fourteen years, the years I’ve been living in The House of Mars. Well, maybe not those exact words, but the spirit behind them. I’m racked with guilt if I linger over the paper once my coffee cup is empty. And it’s spread, I hear them not just Sunday mornings, but Saturday too !
Is there such a thing as WA? I think I’ve become a Workaholic, albeit a procrastinating one when it comes to some chores – the ones that strike fear in my heart; the ones that involve tools you need to plug in or engines to be started up. Now this is really quite puzzling because my level of tool love borders on the macho. Everyone knows I’m proud of my power drill, power screw driver, and all my power saws, and of course my power pressure washer. I just suffer from the what if they don’t work and I have to have them repaired jitters.
Well, the time to bite the bullet finally came. This year February had it in for everything wooden, and even I was getting tired of my own sad fixes.
February also delivered the weather that led to the customizing of my mailbox at the hands of some sort of moving vehicle. (Dare I say a town owned vehicle masquerading as a helper in clearing away the snow?)
So two weekends back I gathered my trusty screwdriver, said a Hail Mary and yes, yes, we were in business! Now everything looks like new!
Well, there was a slight problem with the thermometer ……..
but what the heck nobody’s perfect!
And in case you’re wondering about the answer to next weekend’s Anything for Virginia to do around the house?
Weekends and housekeeping chores; the two have been a dreaded duo for more years than I wish to commit to paper (or screen). It all began when I was ten years old and awarded my very own bedroom with brand new grown up furniture. But there was a catch. It came along with the grown up responsibility of keeping it clean. And then, there was the fine print. I couldn’t go out to play on Saturday mornings until I’d changed the linen and cleaned the room, wall to wall, corner to corner, which I saw as open to interpretation.
Come Saturdays the bedroom set that had looked so glamorous when I’d been allowed to pick it out at the furniture store morphed into an endless lot of surfaces to dust: the dresser with mirror, the chest of drawers, the night stand, and of course, the requisite desk for doing homework; although I found I could camouflage that by piling my books and book bag atop it.
Also, as far as I was concerned, the contract specified cleaning as a Saturday thing, so if a sheet of paper slipped behind the chest of drawers on Tuesday or a sock got kicked under the bed on Thursday, they entered the twilight zone of out of sight out of mind. And when Saturday rolled around they remained out of mind.c
Yes, I was the best surface cleaner in the world. My dusting and waxing were vigorous but confined to horizontal surfaces. And I did have a tad bit of trouble discerning borders, as in where the floor turned into under-the-bed. But if I was strategic in when to call my mother away for a formal inspection, like when she was in the midst of tending to her own cleaning chores or tending to my younger brothers, she usually just ran a finger over the dresser top or smoothed out the hastily draped bedspread, before giving the “OK, you can go out to play.”
My cover would be blown each summer when I spent August at sleep away camp. My mother would attack the room for more than surface cleaning. True story – the summer after eighth grade she found thirty five out of sight out of mind graduation gift dollars behind my dresser. The sad part is I don’t think I’d ever missed them.
Ten years slid by and there I was, in my own apartment. No way was I going to muck up my well-earned weekends with housework. I set up a strict schedule for myself. I’d come home from a day of teaching; have a cup of tea, then attack a room a day. Luckily it was a three room apartment so come Friday night, I was free to rock.
Well, kids guess what. Life goes on. Houses still get dirty. And yours truly has not changed. Although there has been a shocking development. I’ve found a job I love. Yes, you heard that right. L-O-V-E, and it came out of what others might term disaster
My clothes dryer died. Technically, it works, but only on permanent air conditioning – it only blows cold air. Since it was a freebie, in place, along with the washer, when I purchased The House of Mars fourteen years ago, I figure if I buy a new dryer and go through the hassle of arranging removal and delivery, you can bet, sure as anything, the washer will die a clunking death the very next day, I decided to wait for that day, and meanwhile go green.
So now I present to you my new toy.
I’m either amazed at how much it holds or astonished how little a washer load amounts to. But at any rate, I treasure hanging clothes in the morning air. And I hardly recognize the person manning the clothespins. Can that be me, painstakingly hanging each piece seams straight, spaced out just so? And there she is again, taking it all down after work , folding and smoothing each fresh-smelling garment before putting it in the basket. Aah life is good!
Now, when winter rolls around……… but that’s a long way off. Out of sight out of mind!
John Lennon had his Instant Karma and George Michael and Culture Club had Karma Chameleon but the karma I’m talking about is Plant Karma.
Karma and reincarnation are beliefs I seem to have been born with. Even though I dutifully memorized all the questions and answers in the Baltimore Catechism in parochial school, I could never take to heart the one-chance lifetime that led to an everlasting heaven or hell. As far back as the second grade I’d lay awake trying to picture heaven as life without end. I always came to an end. Other nights I’d think “what if I used to be George Washington and just forgot about it.
When I got a little older I took pride in being an American and I figured I must have done something good to earn the right to be born in America, and in New York, on top of that, while other children were suffering in poverty in India or under oppression behind the Iron Curtain. I had no name for it at the time but it all came back to me when I learned about Karma.
Well now that Spring is finally here in NY, I’m back walking at lunch time, and in the midst of one, my monkey mind wandered and stumbled on karma in the plant world. How else can you explain why some plants are pampered pets?
And others defy all odds yet live and grow?
What a plant can have done wrong to come back as a weed, I wondered, and then I corrected myself. No No! Bad! Bad! Not weed!
A very old memory had come flooding back to me. It was 1980 and the day I became enlightened as to PC words. Not not politically correct. Plant correct.
I was visiting Yosemite National Park with The Man I Was Married To, (TMIWMT) and we were taking a tour of the forests on the Valley floor led by a Park Ranger. TMIWMT had a question. I don’t recall what it was. All I remember was that he used the word weed.
Well, poor TMIWMT, the ranger took umbrage at that word. They were wild plants and wildflowers, and had every right to be there. Weed implied an interloper so if you came right down to it humans were the weeds here in the forest.
I don’t think TMIWMT ever used the word weed again for the duration of our time together. Nor did I. In our garden there were the intentionally planted flowers and vegetables and then there were what we called volunteers.
And so here, look at these volunteers and tell me. What do you think they did in their last incarnation to deserve a 2013 life like this?-
I was just thinking…….
Volunteers perform good works, don’t they. And that’s good karma. So do you think any of these guys will come back next years looking like this?
My bucket list dream is to move back to the isle of Manhattan. I don’t keep it a secret. I figure if the universe hears, the universe will provide.
Where would I choose Upper West Side? West Village? East Side? Yes! Only one minor obstacle stands in my way. Money.
And oh, there’s another problem. And it happens every year just around now, when winter has moved on for good. I go outside and, look who’s back.
Would I miss all this? Probably. I feel like a child of divorce torn between two warring parents, each of whom tries to lure me with promises of a dream home.
I’m going to meet a friend in Manhattan on Sunday so I’ll probably be humming New York Frame of Mind next time you hear from me.
But maybe there is a solution. Or is it a delusion. I could have my cake and eat it too. I don’t have to leave The House of Mars. It can be The Country House of Mars. When winter is busy doing its thing, I’ll be in The City Apartment of Mars, looking down from my terrace at the streets below and singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” or maybe “Winter Wonderland”
What’s that you say, what about the money I didn’t have a few paragraphs ago. Oh yeah. Hmm. Owning two homes can be pretty expensive. Two mortgages.
You know if 7 of you could come up a loan of $100,000 each, you could consider The Manhattan Apartment of Mars your weekend pied a terre. I could stay at The Country House of Mars and you’d have the whole urban palace to yourself. Go on, check your pockets for any spare big bills. Look under the couch cushions. Try under the car sear. That’s a place I’m always finding money.
No one? OK, if 14 of you come up with $50,000 each, I can offer you unlimited visiting rights. You don’t even have to call ahead.
How’s about 28 of you coming up with $25,000? I’ll pay you back. I promise!
Take your time, think about it. No rush. I’ll be here – hanging out with my friends!