Find vacuum, open windows

it's time for spring cleaning

April 23, 2005|By JACQUES KELLY

THE SUN'S been rising early these mornings. We've had some warm days, and my garden is full of spring color. There is bushy new leaf growth on the roses.

All the signs point to spring housecleaning. So this week I found homes for the last of the little Christmas gifts that have been stashed in the shadows for months. I threw out some holiday wrapping paper I'd been hoarding. And when I walked the aisles of the grocery store, I threw a bottle of ammonia into the cart and bought a box of garbage bags. I've lined up three vacuum cleaners, two of which are so old they may die before I'm finished attacking the house.

Truth be told, I really love spring cleaning. I was drilled by its two generals, my grandmother Lily Rose and her sister, great-Aunt Cora, whose orderly was my mother. She wisely kept far out of their way and stayed in the cellar all day while they tossed slipcovers and other washables down the steps for her attention. As a child, I observed the ordeal, vowing that one day all this would be mine.

This past fall I suffered an expensive housecleaning come-uppance. When I hauled the dining room rug out the cellar in September, I found it had a circular hole in it the size of a half-dollar. The hole was the work of moths, crickets, mice - or worse, rodentia - and I don't want to think about the hand re-weaving bill on an antique Persian rug. But will that stop me from rolling up a dozen wool rugs and storing them in the cellar for the summer? No. But I'll be more vigilant in my cellar pest surveillance.

The sun gains a little intensity each afternoon over the West Baltimore skies and I'm counting the days until my west and south-facing canvas awnings will come out of storage and go on the house. This effectively throws the dining room and kitchen into a kind of darkness, but on a bright and broiling summer day, there is nothing like a shady oasis.

I am guilty of not doing as much work as my elders once did. They were truly housecleaning obsessives. They had two sets of everything - one winter, one summer.

Not only did they wrestle ill-fitting slipcovers (they were cotton and often shrank, no matter how well tailored) over most chairs and sofas in the house, they changed the lampshades for summer. Their rule was silk in winter, paper in summer.

I used to giggle at this custom, but now, 50 years later, I've been known to do the same thing, thanks to manufacturers who are making inexpensive paper shades.

Baltimore's summers can be dreadful if we're hit hard, but our springs are often long enough to supply a proper housecleaning season. I open the windows (one year I had two cat visitors, one a feline, the other, yes, a cat burglar) and start the vacuum bellows going.

I play a little household game. I can indulge in as much or as little cleaning dementia as I wish. But it all must end by the time the band has finished Maryland, My Maryland and the man in the red coat sounds the call to the post on Preakness Saturday.

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