Readying my home for spring bliss was a lesson in disappointment

May 26, 2001|By JACQUES KELLY

THIS LITTLE tale began this past fall when I determined to be ready for a blockbuster spring and Memorial Day. I wanted to have the place ready for the visitors who call on an upcoming neighborhood garden walk. Plus, I wanted to be ready to take off and say goodbye to Baltimore at a moment's notice for some visiting with family and friends.

Last year, before the World Series, I had the painters and carpenters in. I whacked and tore the garden apart. It was clipped and groomed, ready for a winter's rest and spring debut.

The housecleaning chores were over weeks ago. The summer rugs are all down, the canvas awnings all up as of last week. And, better yet, I've had the pleasure of a full calendar of company who have savored the delightful Maryland spring from the vantage point of my back porch. All we need, I thought, is for the lightning bugs to come out.

Then my Memorial Day bubble burst, and my perfect little world began displaying signs of trouble.

For starters, if I'd really had my act together, I'd have lopped half the Queen Elizabeth rose bush off by St. Patrick's Day. I forgot. So I have Day had but three blooms, just enough to remind me how I blew this one.

Then the other day, to celebrate a fine May evening, I put in the screens and raised the window, only to hear the noise I never want to hear: the sound of a sash weight clanking down within the recesses of the window casing.

I shouldn't complain. I've owned this house 22 years this Memorial Day. And while the windows date from the Grant administration, I like them. There are 30 in the place; I'm down to three that actually go up and down via sash weights. The rest have to be propped up with prayers and wooden sticks.

This is also the spring my backyard fishpond, which went in during the summer of 1982, died. It was the work of Jonathan Herman, then a Maryland Institute graduate, now the mayor of Sykesville and owner of a restoration company. His pond has lasted 19 years with no problem.

Because I'm a Baltimorean who throws nothing away, I may still try to coax another season out of it.

The same for the front porch. It looks a bit like Sweitzer cheese, or as if I hadn't paid my bill with the lumber yard. My painter-carpenter dutifully gave it his best shot last fall - but it's all chewed up. (We won't even talk about the back porch; only the paint is holding it up.)

Other annoyances: Crickets thrived in the cellar over the winter. All the buttons fell off my summer sport shirts. The cleaner torched my hot-weather linen trousers. The wasps greet me each evening when I get home.

So what have I learned this Memorial Day? A simple lesson: Stop obsessing about spring housecleaning, the garden, the porches, the sash weights and enjoy the season.

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