The melting began yesterday. Temperatures inched past freezing, and when I opened the back door to let some of the moist air into the house, I could hear icicles dripping everywhere, all along the edges of the house, clear little streams of water running down onto the banks of snow below. Finally, we seem to be moving towards the end of February: only a week left. When I walked out to the mailbox, I did not wear mittens or a hat, and the air felt soft against my face.
My husband always goes out of town during the last week of February, taking at least one child with him. This year, he took With-a-Why. I used to be careful not to mention it on my blog when my husband was out of town because I didn't want to advertise to stalkers that I was home alone. It has lately occurred to me, though, that the gang of teenage boys at my house, who stay up late into the night playing music because it's vacation week, are far more threatening to any burglar than my gentle husband. And then, too, I've got those seven ferocious cats, who would ruin anything a criminal might try to steal by peeing on it.
With my husband and youngest child out of town, I've got all kinds of extra time in the evenings. So I decided to clean our messy house, tackling closets, corners, and those weird piles of stuff that seem to accumulate in our house. I often brag on my blog about how wonderful my sons are, but readers might notice I never say a word about how great they are at keeping the house clean. That's because while I am willing to exaggerate for the sake of a good story, I draw the line at downright lies.
The last time I did a thorough cleaning of the boys' room was last December. Usually after I do a big cleaning, I give the boys a lecture about how they need to keep the room clean, how they are plenty old enough to be responsible for cleaning, and how their parents should not have to clean up after them. The guilt lecture, accompanied by sighs and stern looks, works for a few weeks. Then we have about a month during which Shaggy Hair Boy will get assigned the room as his chore, and he will make some kind of half-hearted attempt to clean by tossing stuff in the closet and shoving junk under the futon.
Skater Boy and Blonde Niece will chip in and do some cleaning on weekends, but because the boys' room is upstairs, I will sort of forget about it. Then we deteriorate to the stage in which With-a-Why gets assigned the room as his chore, which means the only part that gets cleaned is the very middle of the room. Because pushing a vacuum cleaner over the carpet a few times, shoving all the games and books and papers and crumpled socks to the side is what With-a-Why considers the proper way to clean a bedroom. (Yes, he is the baby of the family – does it show?)
Then one day, I will walk into the room to get something out of the closet, look around, and realize that the corner near the bookshelf looks like some kind of trash heap. At that point, I either go into psycho mother mode, yell at the kids, and make them clean it up, or I just take matters into my own hands and clean the room myself, knowing that I will at least have the satisfaction of throwing away stuff the boys would have hung onto.
It's actually fun to clean a room that is a complete and total mess. Because it looks different when I am done. After stuffing a garbage bag with crumpled papers and broken toys, filling a whole laundry basket with dirty socks and wadded up t-shirts, taking numerous spoons and plates and cups down to the kitchen, shoving books into the overflowing bookshelves, vacuuming up crumbs that have probably been there since Christmas, and piling DVDs onto the trunk that they use as a table, I looked around the room and admired how nice it looked. One wall is painted a deep red, with a tall wooden bookshelf, and a cream-coloured wall is covered with posters. Big windows look out over the front yard.
Then I went downstairs, rehearsing my "This room is going to STAY clean" speech in my head as I went.