all of the selves we Have ever been
Growing up, we had chores.
Especially on Saturdays.
There were outside jobs like picking up toys, mowing the lawn, and sweeping the walk. Respectable, satisfying, gross motor activities. Freedom in the sunshine and fresh air. In my time, those good, outdoor jobs went to the boys.
Dusting was an inside job. Women’s work. And if you look under the letter T in the dictionary, you will find dusting mentioned under “tedious” and “thankless.” Also the definition of “women’s work.” To a ten year old, dusting felt like a prison sentence. In my sooty memories, the room was always dark and gloomy as I served my dusting sentence.
First, the duster had to size up the room and come up with a strategy. Dust first or vacuum first? An
age-old conundrum. Take it from me, there is no such thing as removing dust. It is simply an exercise in resettlement. Choose your speed: cloth or motor.
Once the approach was chosen, the sequence had to be determined. Start with the TV on one end of the room and move to the bookcase on the other end? Or start with the bookcase loaded with stuff and hope to have an ounce of life left to wipe down the TV? Maybe a duster could rejuvenate somewhere in the middle with sparkling blue Windex and a clean mirror.
The coffee table and end tables weren’t too bad. Maybe a lamp and a few magazines. Empty dad’s ash tray. But shelves! Removing all those items? Wiping down the shelf. Dusting each object. All those edges, nooks, and crannies?! Replacing the items…I feel overwhelmed thinking about it. Dusting was not a job for the memory-challenged, distractible, clumsy, or anyone with a life on a Saturday.
Thankfully, I was an adult before ceiling fan blades and Venetian blinds entered the interior landscape to gather the most prolific and pernicious forms of dust and require the most tedious and dangerous dusting maneuvers.
The scent of Lemon Pledge still makes me a little queasy, and I can detect waxy build-up from the other side of the door. But I no longer care about dust. When the dust forms a thick layer, I consider it ripe and surgically remove it like a plastic surgeon performing a skin transplant.
Maybe my parents didn’t care that much about dust either. They were probably trying to keep me busy and teach me some life lessons. By the time my own children came along, children’s lives had changed dramatically. Saturdays were busy, but not with dusting. I remember purchasing a t-shirt for my daughter. The shirt was bright teal with white lettering that said: “I am a joyful child. Joy is an inside job.”
Now, that’s the kind of inside job all children need. Boys and girls. Sunday through Saturday.