Flash Essay: Born to Clean

Today I tackled an unsightly and rather unsavory task in our 1954 Spartan Manor, aka old trailer, up in Ojai.  I tracked down all the old ground squirrel nests tucked into the out-of-the-way spots in the cabinets and swept up all of their droppings. Yuck.

My work required a mask, gloves, a broom and dust pan, a scrub brush, a bucket of hot 409 water, plus lots of rags. This old trailer is in the middle of an orange grove and is the haven for a few ground squirrels every season. This particular season, it was housing at least 3 from the looks of it, and a messy three evidenced by all their droppings.

My task was made significantly more difficult by the fact that we have no electricity up on our land. What might have taken only an hour with a vacuum cleaner took about four hours since I was having to do this all with a broom and dustpan. Alas…it is now done.

I was reflecting on my life while I was on my knees with my head stuck far back in a cabinet of an almost 60-year-old trailer. What does this say about me? This physical labor. This clear battle against nature since no matter how many holes we cover with tin and/or stuff with steel wool, these little critters eventually find a way back in. The gist of my thoughts was this: I have somehow been put on this earth to clean.

I married a man who needed a woman whose task was cleaning, this is for sure. My husband loves to buy old things and all old things are dirty when you get them whether they be cars, trailers, houses or decorative items. They are at the very least dusty; at the most, filthy beyond words. Our Queen Anne Victorian had one room that filled the description above: disgustingly filthy, and, of course, the animal hoarders house we are currently renovating made my task today look like small potatoes. So, I am familiar with cleaning from the most minor to the seriously major.

One could argue that just because my husband has bought something doesn’t necessarily mean that I should be the one to clean it. And, believe me, there are many items that he cleans by himself, many for sure. But the items that fall under the name of community property: houses, trailers, cars, and cool stuff (I realize even not so cool stuff falls under the name of community property), but the stuff I really like, I am willing to clean. So, today, I was on my knees cleaning up ground squirrel poop completely because I want that trailer to be free of that lingering odor and I want the satisfaction of knowing that I made that happen.

Alas, this brings me back to being born to clean.

I lived with a mother who always had a maid, but who tidied all the time. I am in that same category except my housekeeper only comes once a week, not five days a week like my mother’s. One might think having someone else clean your house would make you lazy. Alas, that has not been the case with me and it was not the case with my mother. Or even my siblings, for that matter, since it is a Leatherwood trait to be tidy. I could go visit any of my siblings pretty much at any time of day (and that includes Sam even now) and their houses would always have everything in order. Mine is the same way except when Ray has been a little too busy buying junk and then not so much. Still, I do make every effort to keep the main rooms tidy even then.

So, I may not be destined for grand positions in this life or even slightly less grand positions. Instead, I may continue to do what I’ve always done: get down on my hands and knees with my rag and start scrubbing.

There is something satisfying about that, nonetheless.  Satisfying indeed.

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