Many years ago, after we had lived in our first home for a few years, my parents came for Sunday dinner. I don’t remember any of the details of the day; it wasn’t unusual for the folks to visit, so I don’t think that there was any big event or anything.
All I remember is that as they were leaving, my Dad was talking to Paul about some home repair item. My Dad could build, fix, create, take apart and reassemble anything on earth. Literally anything. So Paul always asked his advice about household problems. I guess Paul and I had failed to notice whatever issue it was that Dad was talking about that day, because he said to me, “It’s OK, honey. I know you guys just aren’t house people.”
The phrase really struck me, because not only had it never occurred to me that I wasn’t a “house person”, it had never occurred to me that there were “house people”. What was a “house person”, and how could I become one?
I wasn’t sure whether or not I felt a little hurt by the comment, but I sure did spend some time ruminating about it.
You see, I grew up in a house where everything was neat and clean and the colors generally matched. My Mom is a natural decorator. She once completely redecorated the upstairs of our house after winning a huge oil painting at a church fair. (It was a giant orange and gold Conquistador. Seriously. Hey, it was the 70’s).
And my mother is a supremely organized housecleaner, too. You could actually sit down and eat off her kitchen floor. Her windows have never had a smudge. When we were kids, she made us strip and remake our beds every Thursday, whether we had peed in them or not. Saturday mornings were for vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the bathrooms. Like clockwork. She washed the kitchen floor every single week.
Now I have inherited many of my parent’s traits and qualities. I am a good cook like my Momma. Like her, I am good with words. I inherited her math phobia, her emotional nature and her complete lack of anything resembling a sense of direction. From my Dad I got big brown eyes, a round chin and a strong sense of fair play.
But I guess I didn’t get the “house person” gene.
As the years have gone by, I guess I have become a little better at home decorating. I started using a table cloth a while ago, and my curtains don’t actually clash with the walls anymore. I’m pretty good about keeping the bathrooms clean, and I wash the floors whenever people start to stick to them. Sometimes I change the sheets.
But I found out today, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my Dad was right.
I am so not a house person.
It all started when I decided to clean my leather sofa. It’s mud season here in Massachusetts, and my two big dogs are bringing in all kinds of goop and gunk. I grabbed some leather wipes and set to work trying to erase the dirt print of Sadie’s body from the sofa cushions. As I scrubbed, I reached down behind the cushion, trying to get all the dirt off.
My hand slipped into the corner, where the cushion meets the sofa arm and back. I pulled out what can only be described as a bulging blob of dog hair. Yikes! Somehow, it hadn’t been part of my cleaning routine to dig the fur out of the sofa cushions. Maybe I should try to get it out right now!
So I started digging, and scraping and yanking. Pretty soon I had a pile of fur that was bigger than my 90 pound pups. I kept digging, the fur kept piling up. As I got lower down into the crevasse, I started coming up with little pebbles, a couple of twigs and even a beer bottle cap.
Holy Dirt Ball, Batman, this was BAD!! If only the cushions could be removed, I mused, If only I could somehow actually see back there………
My fingers suddenly found a small metal clip, attached to an elastic band. A band that connected the sofa cushion to the sofa back.
Oh! Hey, look at that…..if you unclip the little clip, you can actually remove the cushions! Who knew?
So I unclipped, lifted off and recoiled in absolute horror.
There was enough soil in there to plant tomatoes.
There was enough dust, hair and dog fur to fill a mattress. This was no mere dust bunny, my friends; this was a dust Chupacabra. A dust, dirt, hair Yeti. A filthy Bigfoot.
This was roughly 14 years worth of accumulated crap, staring me in the face, telling me in no uncertain terms, “You are just not a house person.”
I spent the next three hours with a canister vac, a fur roller, a wet cloth, two trash bags and a whole container of leather wipes.
I found a comb, two pens, an iPad stylus, a sock, a petrified jelly bean and a penny. I pulled muscles in my hand, shoulder and lower back.
I heard the sound of my Dad, laughing as only he could laugh.
I pushed the sofa back where it belongs, and noticed that it’s a whole lot lighter than it was this morning.
And I am left with two burning questions:
What the hell else am I failing to do that I never figured out I am supposed to be doing?
And would a “house person” reward herself for an afternoon like this with a nice cold martini?