For those of us who live in tropical Minnesota, thoughts of spring always bring a smile and a big sigh of relief. More daylight, more sunshine, more birdsong, cleansing rain, daffodils, new outfits, baseball and housecleaning. OK, for some of us, that last one may not get the same share of earnest applause as the others. I come from a long line of German stock who elevated the art of housecleaning to a ferocious priority each spring. Mattresses had to be turned, doorknobs polished, dust motes sucked from refrigerator cubbies, walls washed and painted, area rugs and upholstery cushions beat senseless, floors and windows cleaned, light bulbs changed…well, you get the picture.
I did not inherit those frenzied cleaning genes, perhaps due in part to the teenage trauma it once evoked. Teenagers need a lot of sleep. The current recommendation is 9-10 hours per night. Like tender buds of spring, growing minds and bodies need sunlight, warmth and rest. Growing up, I had a great relationship with my feather pillow and comforter. When I was a bud of 15, I was rudely awakened at 7 a.m. one Saturday morning. Armed with rags and a bucket of toxic-smelling ammonia water, my mother announced that my room needed to be prepped and painted and I had to help or leave. A Saturday morning at 7 o’clock? Barely equivalent to dawn any other day of the week! Saturday was my day to sleep till noon.
My mother had no sympathy. She clerked in a department store five days a week. You’d think she would relish sleeping late on Saturdays. Apparently, she didn’t understand my objection, and we exchanged words. In a fog, I dressed and chose the latter option—leaving—in as much of a huff as I could muster at such an ungodly hour. I hiked a half block to my best friend’s house, and knowing Bernice was probably still asleep, I found refuge in her garage and stretched out on the back seat of her dad’s Buick.
Catching five more hours of thwarted sleep was not meant to be, however. I was dozing off when I heard some off-key whistling and popped up to see Bernice’s dad several feet away tinkering with something on his workbench. My heart raced. He was a big, humorless man who spoke with a Polish accent and could instill the fear of God in his own children. He would judge my trespassing as a criminal offense. I had visions of him running errands in his car, with me crouching in terror behind the driver’s seat. If discovered sooner, he would probably drag me home by the ear and forbid me from having any further relationship with his daughter.
Thankfully, he didn’t use his car that morning. I waited until I was sure the coast was clear, then scuttled back home. When I told Bernice about the incident at a high school reunion many years later—long after her father passed away—she laughed.
I forgave my mother when I raised four teenagers who also judged Saturday mornings as sacrosanct. But I did relay sympathy. We were pet lovers who lived among fur balls and dust bunnies and tripped over riding boots and shoes in the hallway. I made excuses for a messy house, even after the nest was empty and we were down to two smaller indoor dogs.
I was free to pour my energy into my passion to write. And everyone knows, of course, that creative people never make good housekeepers.
However, I do envy women with a mission to keep their home white-glove clean and uncluttered. To this day, I hire painters when a room needs freshening. Spring cleaning is on my list, but it is never a frenzied priority. Sorry Mom. The smell of ammonia still traumatizes me, and I confess I am still a late riser on Saturday mornings, though spring—and maturity—quick-start me hours short of noon.
Cj Fosdick has freelanced stories and articles for many years. Her new novel, “The Accidental Wife,” grew out of an award-winning short story. The novel was published this spring by Wild Rose Press. Follow her on facebook, twitter and cjfosdick.com.