After reading Gilead, I had Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping novel somewhere on my books-to-be-read shelf. I didn't await it with glee. The title scared the crap out of me. You see, I'm not the best housekeeper. In fact I can pretty much find everything else to do rather than clean my house, i.e. the books shelves in the study where my youngest son does his homework. (Note the presence of the old encyclopedias. What does one do with a set of those these days?)
Conversely, husband's side of the family are cleaning freaks. I can visit his mom's house and use the garage floor as a plate for my dinner, no thoughts needed. At my house, I push aside a pile of papers on my kitchen table to find a spot for my plate. I dare not think about when it might last have been washed off.
I admit it. I'm a crappy housekeeper. Oh, I have times when I sweep, dust, vacuum, mop, sort, toss, scour, and pile papers into a neat stack. Few and far between occurrences. I am easily distracted by the New Yorker open to a new article on top of the pile on the table, or a handwritten letter to send, a garden to plant, a friend to visit, or a novel to write.
Lest I say, you get my house as is when you come by. Which is why Marilynne's book didn't disappoint. Two young girls, Lucille and Ruthie, have survived their parents and grandmother and are passed off to their aunt, Sylvie, their mother's sister the "tramp". Or transient. She prefers the outdoors, danger, a trance-like atmosphere. Collects tin cans, newspapers. Adverse to housecleaning. When the younger sister, Lucille, decides on a more conventional life and moves in with her teacher, the authorities swoop in to see if Sylvie provides a good home for Ruthie. Sylvie cleans the house, but both decide this is not what they want. They escape over the bridge out of town - the railroad bridge no on else will cross, and enter a nomadic lifestyle. Very happy with it, I might add.
The message? Not everyone conforms. Not everyone is cut out for the cookie cutter life. The definitions of order are different for everyone.
I like that kind of thinking.
Although, all good things must come to an end. There does come a time when one has to break down and clean the damn house. My husband and I did that at the lake this past Saturday. Fall Cleaning, as it were. Supposed to do it last spring, but then the crowds came and, well, so much more fun to loll on the dock with a glass of wine than wash sheets, find out what's really under the beds, and scour showers.
We put our bodies to work non-stop. I must have done 24 loads of laundry. Bed pads, sheets, comforters, pillows, blankets. Took everything off the bookshelves, dusted, washed. All the windows, showers, toilets. Moved the furniture - vacuumed and washed underneath.
It looks mahvelous. Ready for the next round of 100+ visitors. At least the upstairs.
We have to spend next Saturday doing the bunkroom and downstairs windows. The old fashioned horizontal kind you crank. Like Venetian blinds, only glass. Plus the downstairs shower where all the hundreds of kids rinse off. Yeck. (That job is for sale if any takers.)
But that night, after we declared the day done, my husband and I lumbered onto the dock to watch the sunset. Our bodies dropped into our chairs and we wished the entire wine bottle plus another had found its way down with us. Although our wearied limbs tingled with overuse, we did have satisfaction in the order and cleanliness of the cabin behind us. Only a momentary tingle for me, I'm certain.
Now, will someone come shovel out the house in town. The one where all the junk of life lives.
Meanwhile, share the sunset.