Sunday, July 25, 2010

Long Division (Part 1 of 2)

‘Vacuum-erly Musings?’
How often do you talk to yourself? More importantly, how often do you listen? Do you like what you hear, or do you seek to tune out the noise?

As active as my imagination is, I find a lot of personal entertainment value in just allowing my mind to run free. I find it interesting to see where it’ll take me and just what its narrative has to say. I love how it is that one thought will open a door to another completely different set of mind-pictures, voices, and recollections of experiences and feelings that I might have stuffed away for one reason or another.

But then again, I am easily amused.

My mind often wanders while I’m engaged in routine tasks, and I don’t think I’m alone in that experience (at least I hope I’m not). In recent years I’ve found that I’m most aware of that fact while in the process of mowing my lawn. My blog’s recurring Mowerly Musings series is a reflection of some of those thought sessions, and has become just another added bonus to the enjoyment I derive from doing my summer yardwork.

However, just as physically listening to something requires a level of intent and concentration, listening to my thoughts enough to capture and write about them is also an exercise in active focus. Unfortunately, I really haven’t made as much of an effort to do that these past few years, and accordingly, my ‘Musings’ have become fewer and further in-between.

However last Saturday morning, I had a blog epiphany that occurred — this time, while I was behind a vacuum cleaner instead of a mower — as Michelle and I prepared for the arrival of weekend guests; our good friends from Memphis-by-way-of-SoCal, the Franklins.

It occurred to me to write about a subject of personal interest that I’ve actually touched on before, but never elaborated upon at any great length: the role environment in which my wife Michelle and I have engaged during our 31-and-a-half years of marriage; our long-standing division of labor.

Mi casa es su casa (es una casa limpia).
The primary reason we wanted to build a home of the size that we did was to take advantage of the opportunity to host family and friends at various times and occasions. It’s something that we have always loved to do. Aside from the obvious enjoyment we derive from having those we love being under our roof, in my opinion there’s another added benefit to regularly entertaining houseguests: we get to live in a home that’s a helluva lot cleaner than it would be otherwise.

I’ve always said, the best reason for having people over is the fact that it’s also the best excuse for cleaning, which is something I can otherwise just about always find an excuse to put off doing. It’s not that we’re slobs, but neither Michelle nor I are neat freaks. We both pretty much employ our own version of a philosophy I like to call, ‘pile management.’

There’s a place for everything, but everything doesn’t necessarily have its own place. Most likely, it’s in that pile of stuff right over there, but I know where it is. And it’ll likely stay in that pile until I find the time to file or throw it away permanently — or we have someone coming over to visit.

So, the more often we can have the latter circumstance, the fewer piles we have to manage. It’s a beautiful thing, really.

See, I have this love/hate thing going on with cleaning. I hate the thought of having to do it, but when I get into it, the activity sort of pacifies me, much the same way that mowing the lawn does. My mind relaxes, and I usually can get some really good thinking in, which is probably my all-time second favorite thing to do.

Last Saturday, our friends from Memphis, the Franklins, were on their way to visit for the weekend, and as usual, Michelle and I were busy, cleaning house, preparing for their arrival.

I was on vacuum detail. Specifically, I was vacuuming the couch, to remove our dog and cat’s pet hair, which our big red sectional seems to attract like a magnet.

This is a particular household job that has become exclusively mine. Michelle has done it perhaps once or twice in all the years we’ve owned couches; in other words, the entirety of our marriage.

Why is it my job only? Who knows? But it’s just something that I’ve always done and Michelle has never offered to do voluntarily. It’s just part of our marital DNA makeup; one of my roles in the relationship.

In fact, running the vacuum cleaner in general is something with which I’ve always been well acquainted. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid; it was a job I volunteered to do as soon as I could manage to push our big Hoover upright around, back in the 60s. I’ve always been fascinated by vacuums and how they work. To me, vacuuming has never been a chore, so much as an ongoing science lesson.

However, sucking persistent dog hair off a surface that doesn’t easily surrender it is indeed a chore. But since I more or less assumed the role of vacuum operator years ago, the job has fallen on me and me alone.

Michelle’s childhood experience with the chore vacuuming was the opposite of mine (i.e.: she hated it), so now as an adult, she’s more than happy that I’m willing to take it on as a regular responsibility.

And besides, the physical aspect pushing a vacuum around, and more so, of lifting and running it awkwardly across the surface of a sofa is something I’m better cut out for anyway, because I’m the man; but more on that later.

As per my similar relationship with mowing, power sweeping has always provided a great time for me to think, and on this occasion last Saturday, I found my thoughts hovered over this somewhat peculiar duty of couch-cleaning. It brought to mind the rather interesting division of roles that Michelle and I have employed in the performance of household chores throughout our years together.

Next: Boom Goes the Dynamite
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