Houscleaning Marks Change Of Seasons

November 03, 2007|By JACQUES KELLY

A weekend devoted to fall housecleaning came to a noisy conclusion. The weather had turned chilly, prompting a mouse to enter the house, then affix itself to a sticky trap in my kitchen. At least this rodent had a newly washed floor to cross before it touched the glue pad and started hitting high notes.

I often ask why I repeat ripping the house apart in spring and fall. For starters, it's a way to get rid of beach sand carried home from the summer of 2007. It also enables me to locate the stuff (reading glasses and a $5 bill) missing since this past April, when the last of the Christmas 2006 tree needles went into the vacuum. In short, it's all about marking change and preparing for the new season.

I get a kick out of watching the plastic sacks of sauerkraut appear at Baltimore grocery stores. Holiday fruitcakes get a bad rap (not from me), but I notice the advance supplies of candied fruits are appearing at local markets. OK. I'll fess up: This week, I paid off the layaway toy electric train I bought.

Housecleaning shortcuts have decreased the work. If paper towels were around in 1955, when I watched my grandmother, Lily Rose, and her sister, Cora, they would not have used them. They employed bunched-up newspapers and ammonia to wash windows. They used rags for other cleaning jobs and made heavy-duty washing soap from lye and collected animal fats. They used cotton mop heads, and washed and rewashed them. I've got a pantry full of electrostatic dusters.

They stripped the old house on Guilford Avenue and were proud of their efforts. By their standards, what I do is nothing more than a light cleaning. They even had a preordained meal for cleaning day: a pot of vegetable soup and homemade cinnamon cake. This was their idea of an easy dinner.

In the process of changing the rugs, I discovered that the summer of 2007 produced a stunning crop of crickets -- at least in my cellar. These jumping bugs are attracted to my sticky traps, which also seem to like the soles of my shoes.

This week, I did away with a summer's worth of sand and dirt, the kitchen mouse and a zillion cellar crickets. But not everything. Late on Halloween night, I was coming home late from a delightful Peabody Conservatory concert. It was a classic fall night, a big moon, leaves underfoot, cool but not cold. A bold gray rat ambled up the St. Paul Street sidewalk, turned into my front yard and dropped into its own cozy tunnel. My work continues.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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