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Spring Cleaning

April 23, 2011

The recent Mercury retrograde had me in an ultra lazy funk, but as it began picking up speed to turn direct, I picked up speed, with an innate urge to Spring Clean.

I recalled the spring-cleaning frenzies of my youth, where the whole family had an assigned task. The endeavor was not complete until every square inch of the homestead had been given a thorough sudsy once over.

Early morning on day 2 of my frenzy, I loaded my shopping cart with 2 lawn size trash bags of papers that had lost their usefulness, broken gadgets I promised to have fixed while knowing I never would, single socks I kept in hopes their missing mates would return, and pounds and pounds of other junk. 

As I got in the elevator in route to the dumpster, a fellow elevator rider remarked, “Laundry?”

“No, Spring-Cleaning!” I replied.

Immediately her entire face smiled a knowing smile as she exclaimed, “Oh that’s right!”

She continued to tell me, “I remember my Mom would have my Aunts come over and help! We would do the walls the floors…everything!”

“Yup, we sure did!” I answered back with a feeling of kindred spirited joy.

Later I recalled how the now ever-popular Spring Break was once called Clean Up Week. Imagine that, an entire week sanctioned for the express purpose of cleaning. It was what we did. (*FYI Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day and on that day EVERYONE went to cemeteries to decorate the graves of the fallen – who ever and how ever they had fallen)

We washed the walls with Spic and Span. We cleaned the Venetian blinds slat by slat by hand. We buffed windows with ammonia to a streak free shine. We polished the silver we never used. We re-potted plants and dusted every single leaf. We gave away old clothes. We cleaned – every nook, cranny, cupboard and closet.

On day 4 of my Spring-Cleaning I got on the elevator again, this time with an empty shopping cart, after feeding the dumpster 2 more bags of trash. I was a little winded since one of the bags contained old potting soil from plants I had repotted and it was pretty heavy to lift into the dumpster.

As I caught my breath a new elevator companion remarked, “Tired?”

To which I replied, “Spring-Cleaning.” Expecting the same familiar grin I got from the 1st rider on day 2. But instead, I was given a glazed over blank stare. Clearly this woman had never even heard the term Spring-cleaning.

As I met her blank stare with my own quizzical stare, she deduced, “You musta had to take da garbage out or sumthin?”

To which I replied again, “Spring-Cleaning!” with a cheerful lift in tone to mask my judgmental distain.

She glanced down at my empty shopping cart and with a slight giggle signifying her distain for me, asked, “You musta had a lot of stuff to thoe out?”

Ok, now I’m annoyed and bark, “Don’t you Spring Clean?”

“I try not to bring nuthin in I don’t need.” She quips back in a tone suggesting the only time I empty trash is in the spring.

“That’s one way to look at it.” I said, which is my default response I give when I really want to say, “You’re stupid.”

I exited the elevator one floor before the floor she pushed, and wished her a happy Easter.

This seemed to unite us and she smiled a sincere toothless smile and wished me the same.

I began to wonder when did Spring-Cleaning cease to be a universally sanctioned activity? Sure, it’s lovely to not accumulate more than you need, but doesn’t the stuff you need require a good scrubbing now and again?

I need my television, but the dust that accumulates in the back where all the cables and wires live will make you sneeze. I needed a rhinestone-encrusted halter-top in 1990 – in 2011 I don’t! I needed unopened boxes of floppy disks for my computer, when they were on sale circa Windows 95 – now I don’t! So out to the trash they go, right?

So, I’m back to the hardware store for more potting soil. The cashier is doing a strange dance and says, “My foot is itching.”

‘You’re going to walk on strange ground.” I tell her. She smiles a knowing smile and asks me, “ Is that what that means?”

“It’s what my Grandmother used to say.”

“But it’s the top of my foot – does that matter?” She asks with genuine curiosity.

“Oh, I sure wish I could ask her.” I say and we both laugh. All I know is my Grandmother used to say when your foot itches it means you’re going to walk on strange ground.

“What’s strange ground?” The cashier working next to her chimes in?

I could feel a little bear perch upon my shoulder – judgy wudgy was a bear, but I shrugged him off and said, “You know, on some ground you’ve never walked.”

“Oh.” She said with a nod, “I thought it meant sumthin else cuz my foot itch too.”

“Then maybe the two of you will go together.” I tell her, while the little bear on my

shoulder snickered.

With a bright smile the 1st cashier says, “ Ooo an adventure!”

The 2nd cashier confidently says, “I don’t see how your foot can itch anyway.”

My default response couldn’t even cover that one. All I could ask the 1st cashier is, “What’s wrong with her?”

She laughed and said, “She’s crazy.”

As I walked home with my shopping cart now full of potting soil, I stopped to avoid getting in the way of a cell phone camera shot a young woman was taking of a little girl, posing next to a parking meter.

The woman waved me along and said with another toothless smile, “Go head. I’m just takin a pitcha of my grandbaby.”

Grandbaby! I thought. This woman can’t be a whole 30 years old and the little girl has got to be at least 8 years old. Hummm…

So maybe that’s what happened to Spring-Cleaning. It got left behind during the generation that produced the 30-year-old grandmother, and teenagers who never heard old sayings because there was no one old enough in their lives to say them…but what’s happening with people’s teeth?

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