On Cleaning

I’ve been told that I am more meticulous than normal when it comes to the condition of my home, which is not entirely true. While I am obsessive about sparkling counter-tops, crisply-made beds, and perfect summits of folded t-shirts, it’s all surface. Open a drawer, and Tupperware attacks. Paperwork festers. A tsunami of towels await.

One could argue that there’s a metaphor here about public vs. private face, but I’ll save that for therapy. Instead, I’ll explain why I clean the surfaces of this house as I do.

Simply put, this home is an undeserved gift. Before you explain that our landlords are paid well, and that my husband works hard, I’ll say it: yes. Yes they are. Yes he does.

But. This home is somebody else’s dream. Built to grow a family, to host dinners, and funeral wakes, first communions and baptisms. How many candles were blown out at this table? How many tears were wiped from cheeks, confidences shared, hugs exchanged? How many bottles of wine? Cups of coffee? Math worksheets?

Many, I know, because we do the same. We hang up family pictures, and put the star on top of our Christmas tree. Children ride their scooters on the patio. We put out pots of Mums in October, and Begonias in the spring. I listen to my husband’s alarm every weekday, and the roosters every damn day.

It’s our home. But it’s also not. We are borrowing the promise the other family made when they laid the foundation. We are called to love our children, to call our mothers, to honor the wonder in each carefully selected tile.

And so, I sweep every day. I wipe down the counters, and pin the clothes on the line. I light candles, and dust. I attempt to be mindful, to focus on trimming back the bougainvillea, to focus on the souls who lived here before, and those who will live here in the future.

It’s a covenant, a thank-you. It’s my  domestic Hallelujah.


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