The little home of childhood dreams grows up unpredictably

When as a kid I was told to clean up my room, I’d sigh, grumble, procrastinate and finally hatch a scenario to make the routine more interesting. I had quite the imagination.
I’d usually pretend I was a beautiful young teacher in a faraway, exotic, unnamed place with parrots and tree frogs. The natives – who looked like Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs – and wild animals would peer through the windows longingly and with great wonder while I conscientiously swept and scrubbed my fastidious mud hut.
I don’t know why I owned bric-a-brac in the jungle while the poor natives did not – I guess there was a bit of the colonialist lurking in my soul, or perhaps I was there to teach capitalism – but something about making a bed with a leopard and a petit cannibal watching made it interesting.
This cleaning game would be far more realistic now, except for that part about my being beautiful and young. Now I’d have to be Madame du Barry. But once a week, in self-defense, I drag my dogs outdoors, or lure them to the front porch, and begin the slow process of shoveling out my real muddy hut.
The dogs don’t like this game one whit. “Excuse me,” their eyes say. “You must have mistaken us for common outdoor dogs. Is there a problem? In order to avoid repercussions, we suggest you open this door immediately.”
If only, when they were puppies, we’d settled on one sofa for their exclusive use. We have three. Sofas, that is, not to mention dogs. I would have saved myself hours in vacuuming time alone if an official Dog Sofa had been designated. Instead, we enforced no lounging limits.
Hind sight is 20/20. Hind legs are caked with dirt.
Did I mention the music? Heigh-ho! I must have music playing to clean. Lively, sock-hop, hair-shaking music. That entails opening hundreds of CD cases only to discover I’ve stuck the wrong music in the wrong plastic shucks. Hours later, dust cloth around my neck like Willie’s bandana, I’m still sorting music instead of cleaning.
Thank goodness the house is small. I used to want an antebellum mansion on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but these days anything larger than a one-bedroom breadbox seems daunting. How would you heat and cool an antebellum mansion in these inflationary times? You wouldn’t. You’d reduce your living space to an area about the size of my house, so what’s the point?
My cleaning often stalls in the bedroom, which, all the magazines say, should be a peaceful haven for the soul. Soft colors and surfaces. Nothing to jolt the senses.
At this moment my bedroom has a big, ugly, green, plastic storage box from the discount store with the cat food inside. The box belongs on the deck, but I don’t want the Little Friskies to freeze.
On top of the plastic lid is a vaporizer, the better to breathe when you have a bad chest cold. Quilts and socks and a squeaking dog toy shaped like a cheeseburger are in a big pile at the foot of the bed. An inch of dust from the wood stove covers any flat surface, except the plastic box, which is kept reasonably clean with the steam from the vaporizer.
By the time I clean the bedroom, the dogs are thoroughly put out, peering through the glass of the French doors like my imaginary leopards of yesteryear.
“For heaven’s sake, woman,” their saucer eyes complain. “You don’t expect us to stay out here all day? What do you take us for? Savages?”

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Joe Rutherford

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