Today since I didn’t have work, I spent the entire day cleaning the house. My mother and younger brother are flying in tonight from Colombia for a surprise visit (family drama, which will receive the Bill Clinton treatment in this blog–don’t ask, don’t tell). They’ll be staying for seven to ten days, I’m not really sure. I think it’s a good idea, because it’ll let my young bro feel like he’s actually got a life in Portland, as opposed to just lingering in this stale cloudy limbo. Anyway, so it gave me a good excuse to bust out the vacuum cleaner. I definitely have a crush on that little vacuum cleaner by now. It reminded me of WALL-E, scurrying loyally after me with just a gentle tug of its handle.
Throughout the day as I was cleaning–doing dishes, loading laundry, vacuum-vacuum, scrubbing toilets (OH! how I scrubbed those toilets!)–I kept thinking of songs or stories that have to do with cleaning houses. Liz Phair’s “Canary” is one: “I clean the house, I jump when you circle the cherry, I sing like a good canary, I clean my mouth, ’cause froth comes out.” Then there’s Kate Bush’s classic, “Get Out of My House,” in which the lyrics “I wash the panes, I clean the stairs,” sounds like a strange metaphor for “I wash the pain.” Also, the image of the windows of a house weeping water make me think of eyes filled with tears. She also has that other song on her new album, “Mrs. Bartolutzi-whatzit,” in which laundry is made to sound very sexy, as a man’s trousers gets wrapped around a woman’s dress. Ooh, lah-lah. She also squeaks “washing machine!” repetetively. Oh, Kate. I also remembered this Momintroll story by Tove Jansson, the Finish writer, about a Fillyjonk who goes crazy OCD-style scrubbing her steps by the seaside. In the end a giant tidal wave smashes her house to bits and she ends up liberated dancing on the sand. I think the story was called “The Fillyjonk who was afraid of disasters.” Man, I loved Tove Jansson, especially her adult novels–I think they were called “A Winter Tale” and “A Summer Tale.” Something about the seasons. Anyway. Highly recommended.
So on the whole house-cleaning isn’t given a very good rap, at least within the canon of my high-school self’s favorite music and literature. I can kind of see why this would be the case. I definitely reached a fillyjonk level of kooky myself there for a while, namely when I was on my knees picking up fluff from the carpet corners that the vacuum cleaner had failed to suck. Or maybe when I jumped in the bathtub bare-footed in my underpants to furiously scrub away the Clorox, yelping in pain from time to time as burning hot water scalded my toes (I always do house-cleaning in my underpants, I dunno, it’s just more comfortable that way). Man, I sure hope Clorox doesn’t get absorbed through the skin, ’cause I was wiped that stuff off with my bare fingers, apart from giddily splashing around in it. I’m pretty sure I overused it, too. I couldn’t help myself… those toilets were mad gross (we were coming back from four months in the jungle, after all… use your imagination… or better yet, don’t).
Still, despite its bad reputation, and tendency to make us girls go a little cahrahzee if we get too much of it, I still feel very Zen and satisfied. Cleaning has always been a good way to get stuff done. Throughout senior year and even now, whenever I’m particularly stressed or have had a bad day, I furiously clean the kitchen and load/unload the dishwasher. It’s just a little way to feel like you’re still a capable human being. You have to not get carried away and get depressed that even after all those hours of cleaning, you didn’t take all the empty beer cans in your room out to the recycling bin, or mop the kitchen floor because you weren’t sure of the effect of clorox of wood. You just have to know when to stop, you know?
And make the boy you’re living with clean the toilets next time.