The holidays, for me at least, are a perfectly good excuse to accomplish something I’m always meaning to do: getting my house in ship-shape condition.
Sounds simple, right? It isn’t, not by a long shot. It’s more like a Sisyphean task, a never-ending challenge to both my sanity and serenity. See, Nobody in my family shares that goal. Nobody.
I live with a man whose name I will not mention in this space, a man who thinks everything is perfectly fine. He doesn’t see what I see. He doesn’t spot what is flapping and waving in front of his face. I’m convinced he’s willfully blind.
What’s the big deal? he wonders. Why so much fuss?
Aargh! I get aggravated at the mere thought of the housekeeping tasks that need to be done.
Yet, if I point out the squeaky door or the weedy flowerbed or the peeling paint to others, namely my children, I get zippo sympathy. Nobody sees those flaws but you, they insist. Nobody notices. Nobody cares.
I notice, and I care, and I count as somebody.
I used to think this inability to agree on repairing, repainting, readjusting, rearranging and other general sprucing up was due to a form of gender inequality, a misunderstanding between the sexes. You know the old trope, that men are from Mars and women from Venus. That men hog up the remote control but women share. That men won’t stop to ask for directions but women will, even if they’re using Google Maps.
Then an acquaintance challenged my sexist judgment. Her husband, she told me, is like an avenging angel equipped with hammer, pliers and Allen wrench. No weekend is complete without some home or garden project, and she’s had enough. Every once in a while she’d like to put her feet up. Moreover, she really doesn’t mind the smudges on the wall or the hulking presence of the black olive growing too close to the roof.
Blessed are the clueless, truly. I can’t walk around the house, not even in the dark, without noticing fingerprints on the white doors or the unreachable crumbs collecting between the cabinet and the stove.
Before family converged on our humble abode for Thanksgiving, the first of many seasonal events, I tried to launch an all-out war on the broken and the well-worn. I didn’t get far. Other duties short-circuited what I now realize was a feeble attempt at order. For one, I didn’t nag enough. And for two, I resorted to an old standby too quickly. I moved stuff to the garage, hid what I could in closets, and slapped throws and sofa pillows on the ratty edges of our seating arrangements.
But now, with Christmas fast approaching, I’m on a crusade. It’s fix-up time or bust.
The screen on the back sliding door has to be replaced.
The patio area must be pressure cleaned, the yard mulched, the areca palms thinned out.
The baseboards need to be wiped free of wispy dog hair and the wall behind the brown sofa repainted.
The unused stuff accumulating in kitchen drawers needs to be sorted.
And the garage shelves — oh, the garage shelves. I can’t even consider those without hyperventilating. Best to forget about them for now, since few guests will be venturing there except to scrounge through the freezer when the ice bucket empties out.
I’m beginning to think renters have it made. A homeowner’s work, alas, is never done.