The Sound of Squeaky-Clean Silence

By Mir
July 4, 2004

Hear that? Neither do I.

I’m alone, for the next 24 hours or so. Ordinarily a busy mom lucky enough to have a day of silence will barely be able to contain her glee, and I am usually no exception. Today, however, marked the end of a week of having my father and stepmother and kids all here together. Prior to that, I hadn’t seen the kids for over a week, and hadn’t seen my folks for several months.

And now it’s Sunday night; my least favorite day ever of the week. Grandma and Grandpa hit the road ’round lunchtime to a high-pitched chorus of “byebyeweloveyou!”s at the door. The kids headed off with their dad to see fireworks tonight and spend his day off tomorrow milking the Fun Daddy Entertainment Machine (patent pending) for the Bestest Fun Ever. (Good thing I’m so unbothered by that, wouldn’t you agree?) And then there’s me. I’m alone in a very empty house. I am also exhausted from the odd fusion of Second Post-Surgical Week with Blissful Week, and so will probably just spend most of my liberated hours sleeping, but right now… I’m gonna sit here for a bit and try to stare down the aloneness of my home.

My father gets very uncomfortable when people “notice” him here on my blog. He once commented on a post and someone commented on his comment and he called me up all weirdly kinda-sorta-not-exactly perturbed about it (and has not commented, since). This post is going to make him famous, and grumpy. Sorry, Dad!

I have to point out that my father is perhaps my biggest fan; not only supporting me in every choice I’ve made in my life (good and highly questionable alike), but in reading my blog faithfully and more or less telling everyone with whom he comes into contact to read it, too. I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I have screwed up one thing after another and he is still so proud of me, it’s just plain embarrassing. But, okay; I have half his DNA. Then there’s my stepmom. A part of our lives for the last ten years or so, no obligations to me or my children whatsoever, and I am hard-pressed to remember a time when she wasn’t around. It would have been quite enough if she just made my dad happy (she does) and nothing more, but she’s enveloped my little family in such genuine love and kindness (particularly when times were hard) that if my father is ever dumb enough to screw things up with her, I might have to hurt him.

So, why am I telling you this? Without this exposition, my readers would surely believe this next bit was fiction, or at the very least, highly embellished. I swear on my children’s heads that the following is 100% true.

This week:
I didn’t wash a single dish. I didn’t cook a single meal. We ate like royalty and the kitchen was always clean. My children had the time of their lives even though I felt like crap. I never shopped for groceries. I napped whenever I wanted to (well, ‘cept that time we were taking Chickadee to a doctor’s appointment and I was really wishing for a nap in the waiting room…). Instead of hearing “But Mama, why can’t you?” I heard “I’m gonna go get Grandpa!” or “Grandma is going to do this with me!” My lawn was mowed. My flower beds were weeded. The hedges were trimmed. All of the laundry is done. My refrigerator and freezer and basement freezer are full of prepared foods. I was reminded to take my medicine. I was sent to my room to rest (and it didn’t bother me one bit). I had adult companionship when I wanted it and a Get Out of Socializing Free card for when I didn’t feel up to it.

Chirping smoke alarm? No problem. A bag of fresh 9-volt batteries appeared as if by magic, because after all, if one is chirping we may as well tend to all of them. (Yes, for a brief and greedy moment I’d wished a big hunk of paint had fallen off one of the walls… that might’ve been interesting.)

Also? Before they left? They cleaned my house. Now, I consider this a huge thing under any circumstance. But as my stepmom put it, she has a “high tolerance for mess.” They have someone clean for them at home and so don’t have to do this stuff very often. Don’t you think that if you never even cleaned in your own house you sure as heck wouldn’t be looking for other people’s houses to clean? I wouldn’t. Heck, I’d be all, “Well it was lovely being your personal slave for the week and everything, but I have to leave now and I put my towels in the hamper. Seeya!” But no. When they were finishing up and getting ready to leave, I was running around the house between the two of them trying to get them to stop cleaning.

“No, don’t vacuum there!” I pounced on my father. “That’s… uhhh… the wrong attachment for that carpet. Plus we never use this room.”

“No, don’t bother dusting,” I answered when my stepmom offered. “I dusted right before I went in for surgery, and since I normally only do it every 6 months or so, really, don’t worry about it.”

Because you know, all of this, it makes a person uncomfortable. Either I’m in the presence of people a whole lot nicer than me (likely, but disconcerting) or I’m dying (less likely, but even scarier), no? I felt like I had to try to stop them, or at least slow them down.

I wandered from project to project–vascillating between wonderment and guilt and extreme joy–as my floors began to shine, the bathrooms sparkled and fairly oozed fresh un-bathroom-y scent, and the dishdrain in my kitchen which has been full of miscellaneous tupperware-type and other unidentifiable plastic things since 2001 was emptied. Did you know that if it’s empty, you can in fact put things in the dishdrain and in a little while they will be dry? And then later, you can put those things away somewhere?? Neither did I!

But the proverbial cherry on top… I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I tell you. If I hadn’t walked in on this project already underway, I would’ve attempted to throw myself down as a human shield and prevent its execution purely to save face. (What face I had left to save after a week of excellent imitation of a large human slug I’m not sure, but anyway.)

My stepmom cleaned my fridge.

I don’t mean she wiped down the outside or even that she wiped down a couple of shelves inside. I mean she took. everything. out. With bleach or sheer willpower (I’m unclear which) she cleared all surfaces of that gunk that you never know what it is but oh my God shove the 10-year-old nearly-empty pickle jar back into that corner and cover it up before it spreads! This woman was undeterred by my penicillin collection. She barely batted an eyelash over my fossilized guess-whether-it-used-to-be-a-fruit-or-a-veggie assortment in the crisper drawers. All I know is, there was a flurry of activity, and at the end? Cleaner than when it came from Sears. And we don’t share genetic material or anything! That is LOVE, people!!

So I may sit here tonight in an empty house, feeling a few woulda-coulda-shoulda pangs trying to creep in, but on the whole I’m feeling pretty darn warm and fuzzy. And you have to be a special kind of talented to feel even warmer and fuzzier each time you open the door to the fridge and stand there being chilled to the bone and yet so deliriously elated because it’s so pretty inside you are afraid to touch anything.

If you have a drink nearby, please raise a toast to my dad and stepmom. Short of, you know, not having had my body sawed open the prior week, nothing could have made this week better. I am humbled by and grateful for the blessing of these two in my life. I love you both and thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. (I am also feeling like a serious wussy for not having followed through on my threat of stealing a sparkplug so you couldn’t leave.) Your delightful presence would’ve been enough without all of the work you did, but that you’re so darn fun to be around and you think of (and then do) everything? Unbelievable. Thank you.


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