Rite of spring

Rite of spring

It’s spring. For me, being of a certain age and traditional upbringing, this means it’s time for “Spring Cleaning.” When I was a kid my mother took everything in the house that wasn’t nailed down and dusted it, beat it or threw it into the washing machine (yes, we had washing machines way back then). For his part in this ritual, my father was relegated, happily, to the back yard. He’d don his new pair of cement-gray canvas gloves, gather sticks, leaves and tattered Wiffle balls and deposit the whole mess into metal garbage cans that looked like toys compared to today’s wheeled behemoths.

I have my own house now and as I look around at my smudgy, twiggy little acre of Heaven, I cringe. In order to afford Heaven, I have a full time job, leaving little time to beat an egg, much less a rug. But, old habits die hard. Besides, dust bunnies do not qualify as Easter decorations. I had to do something.

I started small, arranging my cleaning supplies alphabetically. Ajax…Zud. Buoyed by my easy success, I grabbed some Pledge, third from last, and dusted the coffee table, bookshelf and two, count ‘em two, end tables. Once my coughing subsided, I lugged my wind-tunnel-turbo-tornado-vortex vacuum cleaner from behind a box of Christmas decorations and whipped my Karastan into submission. Twenty minutes later, ten of which were spent wrestling the rug’s fringe free from the vacuum’s rollers, I had just about had it with Spring Cleaning and collapsed into a chair. But there were those dingy curtains staring at me, not to mention the streaky windowpanes behind them (Spring Cleaning 2004).

I looked around the room in quiet desperation. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all. Just as I was about to give up on Godliness, I spied my purse. A dusty light bulb went on above my head. “When,” I thought excitedly “was the last time I cleaned that thing out? Last month? Last year? When I got married the first time?” It didn’t matter really. It was definitely time to do it again. And if my basement was any indication of my ability to throw things away this might keep me busy until spring was officially over.

I got out of my chair only to place a trashcan to my left and a box for “collectibles” to my right. I placed the purse ceremoniously on my lap and reached in with anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed. In the bottom left corner I felt an oddly shaped coin. Memories of our 2000 visit to England came bubbling up. I scraped off the old gum looking for her Majesty, the Queen. Although there was a vague resemblance to Elizabeth II, the engraving said “Chuck E. Cheese.” That coin wasn’t 4 years old, it was 14. It made a loud clinking sound when I dropped it into the metal trashcan.

Not to be deterred, I reached into the right corner. I pushed aside the single popcorn kernel and felt a key. That was promising. Maybe it was the long-lost key to my safe deposit box. If so, I could spend tomorrow at the bank spring-cleaning that out. Collectible.

I rooted around a little more and found a lipstick and glue stick, both missing their end caps. I was horrified. What was I doing with lipstick in my purse? Was I planning to re-apply “Pretty in Poppy” after dinner at our local eatery? Was I planning to become my mother? I flung the lipstick into the trashcan as if it was nuclear waste. The glue stick was salvageable.

My next discovery drew blood. A Swiss army knife for emergencies? Hardly. It was a safety pin that in its heyday had held four small, plastic beads. My 1994 Mother’s Day gift. One bead remained, attached by the errant glue. Collectible.

Next, I found a pocket mirror emblazoned with Elvis. I think it was part of the lipstick conspiracy perpetrated by my mother. In fact, there was a long poppy-colored streak right across the front. I wiped it clean with a lacy handkerchief that miraculously appeared (my grandmother must have been in on the plot too) and dropped them both in the box. Elvis would be big on e-bay.

One hour, 4 ticket stubs, 3 receipts and a Pamper’s coupon later I hit bottom. I turned the purse over to shake out the dust of broken Milkbone biscuits and out popped a Chiclet that would have made Darwin proud. It looked a little like an old, chipped tooth but it was viable. After some thought I placed it in the box of collectibles. After all, it had survived the rough and tumble life of a purse for all these years. Who was I to end its existence?

I put the empty purse back on my lap and surveyed the excavation site.