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I know for certain as soon as the tiger lilies push through the tepid soil around my mailbox. Ready or not, I am forced to acknowledge that spring is here, dragging a bevy of voluntary and involuntary associations. I confess to adoring short sleeves, the fragrance of flowers, and the burgeoning buds. Though not a great sports fan, I consider spring training a wonderful excuse for enjoying the musclebound machinations of talented young athletes. As long as it's not the particularly purulent variety, I even enjoy the insistent emotional stab of spring fever.

I don't even mind springing ahead when the clocks change. I figure I shouldn't complain as long as I can still spring. In order to enjoy the benefits of the vernal equinox, I'll even accept allergies, gypsy moths, and religious rituals requiring grown-up clothing. But the scourge of my existence, as faithful readers will remember, is spring cleaning (see Spring Cleaning, April 10,1998). The only thing I can say in its favor is that there is no such tradition for fall, winter, and summer.

Neither my brain nor my belongings can be confined in organized categories. Surely you remember my college room-mate (see Spring Cleaning, April 10,1998), who kept a list of active panty hose. She classified them by color (the sixties offered everything from nude to magenta), style (sandal toe sheers, for example, were her designated evening wear, though I might have chosen pink bunny slippers), and condition (slight runs without frontal faults could be worn under slacks). We still wore a lot of underwear in the mid sixties, and my drawers (no pun intended) were filled with amorphous wads of polyester and nylon. In the sexual revolution of the skivvies, there was no guarantee that one sock would stay with its significant other. Every morning brought adventure and surprise as I rifled through the repository for publicly acceptable footwear.

Things are not much better today. I will never understand why my dentist insists on having all folds face front in her linen closet. Even if I could talk while she describes the slothful housekeeper who consigned towels to shelves with no thought for order, shape or color, I would probably still simply gargle "Aarrggh". I don't have dust bunnies; I have dust elephants. I am a firm believer that doors were invented so that people do not have to see what goes on behind them. I think I've wasted my talent. I should have been a political advisor.

Two talented and organized women, a mother of a certain age and her fortyish daughter, help me keep the Board of Health away from my door. Every two weeks, they appear with the tools of their trade and transform my home into the palace of polish. The fragrance of Pine Sol comforts some inaccessible part of my psyche, assuring me that, if things smell clean, they really must be clean. The two would undoubtedly be shocked to learn that they are the incarnation of my worst nightmare. They chatter amiably as they work, enjoying the outcome of their efforts. I shudder to think what would happen if I had to clean someone else's house, a place where I couldn't cram an extraneous artifact into the junk drawer or throw a clean shirt into the wash because it had nowhere else to go. And what could be worse than having to work under the judgmental scrutiny of a mother who never liked an opinion she didn't originate? I can almost hear her now, hands on hips. "Marcia, is that really the way to tuck in a sheet? I thought you knew better. You certainly didn't learn that from me." Frankly, I think the phrase "hospital corners" should be reserved for perpendicular pathways in medical centers.

After years of considering myself flawed because I do not see the natural order of things, I have learned that my associative, intuitive personality is designed for disarray. I can retire guiltlessly with a good novel even when my pans profess that stainless steel is an oxymoron. I accept the fact that I do not know how to clean and have no desire to learn.

When my first child was very young, we listened dutifully to Free to be You and Me. I expected him to grow up slaying dragons with one hand while playing Mozart with the other. Lingerie in limbo, I felt vindicated when I heard Carol Channing espouse Sheldon Harnick's brilliant analysis of housework:
          
... I'll tell you one thing
	I know is true:

The lady we see
	when we're watching TV --
The lady who smiles
	as she	scours
		or scrubs
		or rubs
		or washes
		or wipes
		or mops
		or dusts
		or cleans
or whatever she does
on our TV screens
that lady is smiling
because she's an actress.
And she's earning money
for learning those speeches
that mention those wonderful
		soaps...
Remember:
Nobody smiles doing housework
but those ladies you see on TV.
Because even if
		the soap...
	that you use 
		is the very best one --
housework
is just no fun.
Compulsive cleaners, eat your hearts out. (But please -- no crumbs on the floor.)

Written by Marcia Brown Rubinstien
April 26, 1999

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