Member Musing: Carole J. Greene

Member Musings features the reflections and thoughts of an NPC member.

Spring House Cleaning — or Divorce

Carole J. Greene

Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about being married. And about spring house cleaning. The two are not compatible. If you intend to clean your house from basement to attic rafters, you’d better be prepared to do it alone. This is not one of those “togetherness” chores all the marriage manuals talk about. In fact, nothing else is guaranteed like spring house cleaning (SHC) to bring lights to the eyes of divorce lawyers.

Your husband may be an ever-present body on the family room couch every Saturday and Sunday for months, yelling at the baseball-football-basketball-hockey-skiing-wrestling-swimming athletes, cursing at the opponents of his favorites, spilling beer and nachos on your freshly vacuumed carpet. But on the day you appear in the doorway with paint bucket and brushes, carpet shampooer, and window-washing rags, he suddenly discovers a hundred excuses to be out of the house for the next three weeks. “The doctor says I should exercise more, so I’ve taken up tennis. I have to play every Saturday and Sunday for heaven knows how long.” Or “The boss wants me to join his foursome every weekend, and you know how he is—no golf, no raise.”

OK, then, after a few years you learn not even to ask him. You don’t tell him you plan to SHC this month. You just drag out all the equipment and start.

The first day goes something like this:

You move the furniture out of the master bedroom so you can shampoo the carpet. The rug shampooer breaks down in the middle of the room, and you must hurry to the rental place to replace it. Only after you walk into the rental shop do you realize you are still barefoot, but it is too late. You have already stepped on a nail. An hour and forty-three minutes later you leave Urgent Care, having been bandaged, injected with anti-tetanus vaccine, and lectured on the evils of barefootedness. You return to the chore of rug shampooing. The job takes longer because you are limping. You barely have time to replace the furniture before dear hubby comes home. He finds you singing in the bathtub, your bandaged foot propped on the side of the tub. Your look tells him he’d better not ask questions.

Day two: You decide to paint the bathroom, which yesterday, as you stared at the ceiling above the tub rather than throw the soap at your hubby, you noticed was in terrible condition. While you crane your neck backward to paint a corner of the ceiling you can’t reach without removing the commode, your face becomes speckled with a million tiny dabs of paint whirling off the roller. Just as you mutter “for better or for worse,” hubby dashes in. He knocks over the paint bucket, bumps into the ladder—causing the roller pan to fall on his head—and announces: “Joe Adler from the head office will be here for dinner in one hour, and my whole career depends on this evening being perfect!”

You stare at him in horror and disbelief as he becomes conscious of the paint dripping off his nose and ears. After 45 minutes sudsing “Passion Pink” from your husband’s rapidly graying locks, you haven’t touched your own speckled face. The doorbell rings. You have 30 seconds to decide whether to answer it and risk embarrassment and ridicule or pretend you’re not home and risk unemployment. You decide you’re not up to making decisions at the moment and let dear hubby answer the door and make explanations.

Day three of your SHC: You dress slowly and happily in your prettiest new dress, log on to your bank’s website and check balances in all your accounts. You click through Angie’s List and Home Advisor for painting contractors, window-washers, carpet cleaners, apartment managers and lawyers. You pack a bag, leave a note to tell hubby you’ll call in a few weeks, when everything has been done, and then you’ll talk about coming home. Until then, he should keep smiling and not try to find you.

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