When I woke this morning, there was an unusual glow in the bedroom. All around the blackout blind (which oxymoronically is white) was an uncharacteristic pale buttery yellow and it was forcing its way in through the long fringes and through the netted lace. It was far too bright for a winter morning.

Not so long after, I pushed aside the patterned sheers and peered through the upper windows onto the garden and across the street. Long blue shadows were lancing across the rimy lawns and the roadway. The little white house facing mine was shadowed a tempered cerulean blue as the early sun strove to crest the firs behind the house. As I was contemplating that this was promising to be a glorious day, the phone jangled rather rudely. Did I want to answer it or just let it go to the answering machine? Did I want to break this rather meditative spell?

On the third jangle, I thought it might be important and dove for it despite my reveries.

“GOOD MORNING” , hollered Mrs. Stepford in her cheery voice.

She calls every morning to see that I’m still alive. When you live alone, it’s rather wonderful to have a friend who feels responsible for your well being.

“Good morning” I responded in a rather subdued tone. I hadn’t woken up yet. “Can I call you back in five?”

In those five minutes, I microwaved a yesterday’s old coffee and downed it as I put on a new pot. Fresh coffee in hand, I called her back.

We chatted about our day’s roster of duties and last night’s activities. Nothing earth shaking, I assure you.

“Alexander helped me clear out half that basement room last night” I informed her. Alexander is a friend’s teenage son who is tall, shy and gangling. He looks like he needs to be fed but it’s probably just his growth spurt that is making him look a bit romantically wan and pallid.

I proudly added, “I got two coats of paint over that striped wall paper.”

The wall paper had equidistant primary colour stripes on it spaced about three inches apart. Blatant red, blatant yellow, bright blue. It had been cheery for a children’s playroom but was not suitable for displaying art work. The stripes still show underneath but they are suitably tony now for some hopefully fine art.

“By the way, ” I announced in an important voice, “next time you come over, I want to be sure that you notice the front door. I rarely housekeep, so I want you to notice that I washed down the outside of the front door. If I didn’t tell you, you probably wouldn’t.”

I only do the dusting variety of housework when you can notice the difference. For instance, if you can run your finger through the dust to write your name, it may be time. Winter grime had been collecting on the horizontal ledges and I had been thinking how poor a housekeeper I was compared to my legendary Dutch forbearers. There is also green algae growing on the steps and the railings but that will need to wait for warmer weather when I can get the hose out and I won’t have to worry about water freezing on them. I may have to paint the trim green so no one will notice if algae grows.

“I will take note,” she promised gravely. “Mr. Stepford is always complaining about the state my housework. He says there are spiderwebs all over. I don’t see them and never really paid attention. He has conceded that I should get a housekeeper to come in and do the work.” She chortled.

“Might as well”, I laughed. “Now that you are legally blind, you’ve got a great excuse.”

“But I don’t like strangers to do my housework.” she continued.

“Does that mean that you only want your friends to do your housekeeping?” I asked, giving a provocative twist to her terms of reference, and laughing.

“No! No! I mean, I don’t want them doing what I should be doing myself.”

“Me neither,” I commiserated. “I don’t like them snooping in my stuff.”

“Oh, they can take anything they want,” she countered. “I don’t care about stuff. I wish they would just take it.”

“I wasn’t thinking about theft,” I protested. ‘It’s having to tidy up my papers; I don’t like them looking at the mess I live in. I don’t like them to move my ornaments and decoration.”

“You’d better tell them exactly what you want, if you get somebody in.” I continued. “Last time I had one in, I wanted them to do the things I wanted them to do. I couldn’t reach the top of my cupboards without getting on a ladder and I’m too old for that. And I wanted them to take down the curtains and put them in the laundry. I wanted them to do the windows.”

“They insisted on giving the house an initial clean and then following up next time with the more occasional things. They cleaned the kitchen counter and vacuumed and dusted. Those are all things I can and do do regularly myself, so what was the point? They wouldn’t do what I wanted so they were never invited back. So much for paid housekeepers. What was the point?”

“I learned to live with just another level of grime, cleaning only when the grunge became too noticeable.”

We moved on to other topics – what we were going to do for the day, a recap on her first day in the gym (she’s going to come with me) and its ensuing inventory of current muscle awareness. We commented on the beauty of this rare sunny day and signed off.

I’m off and away to wash the basement cement floor so that I can paint it before I replace that hideous carmine red rug with a warm beige one. That’s been the kind of cleaning I’ve been doing lately. Just cover the grime with paint!


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