Spring Cleaning

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A couple Decembers ago, my husband and I made a pact. To reach our long-deferred goal of a total garage cleanup, we would leave the Christmas tree up until the chore was done. Surely this would shame us into doing what had to be done.

But January passed, then early February. One afternoon, one of our adult children stopped by. “So, what’s going on with the Christmas look?” he finally asked.

We explained.

“Ah,” he said, and left to survey the rest of the family. By what holiday would the Christmas tree come down? Bets were placed; his money was on Halloween.

“I know how you are,” he said. “You’ll get distracted by work, and travel and other projects, and the tree will still be up in October.”

“If it is,” I replied, “we’ll just leave it. Roger’s Gardens will have its Christmas décor up by then. We’ll fit right in.”

Eventually our son’s frequent and transparent check-ups about how “things were going” shamed us into action. By St. Patrick’s Day the tree was packed away.

I tell this story for two reasons. First, we remain quite proud that our garage is at last presentable. Second, it’s March, and I’ve come to realize that the traditional spring-cleaning associated with this time of year is a worthwhile discipline for other reasons.

Nature understands this, and sends the Santa Anas to clear the sycamores out, and, recently and happily, the recent rains that cleanse the skies and wash the garden of its dust.

Perhaps it’s also a good time to clear our heads of those unproductive thoughts and ideas – let’s call them virtual dust balls – that take up too much space in our minds. Misperceptions, for example. Here are a few of mine:

I’ve learned that there are Republicans around town that dislike as I do much of what the GOP has come to stand for. If you don’t hector them about their party affiliation, they may talk about why they stay.

It isn’t easy being a political contrarian in this town, so be gentle with them.

Should your ideology cause you to leave a church or a political party, it doesn’t mean you have to leave the people behind that you care about. The conversations you continue to have become touchstones that say “we may disagree but we can still be friends.”

That said, some might want to lose touch with you, though I have learned that Nature does abhor a vacuum. New people come into your life and turn your preconceptions around.

In recent years I’ve gotten to know a group of Muslim women. They’re smart, funny, and accomplished business people who came here from Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iran. I cherish our conversations as I learn about their lives, their families, and their faith. Their tradition of hospitality puts ours to shame.

Sometimes the misperceptions come from like-minded colleagues. Take Bob Schmidt’s column of Feb. 1, “Cupid Twangs Again,” in which he states that I, “the Indy’s distaff liberal, argues that men don’t understand romance, and a woman could do a much better job playing Cupid.”

Aw, Bob, not true.

He also wrote, “[A]rtists have always depicted Cupid with undeniably masculine equipment, which makes women ineligible to apply for the job.”

Hey, Bob, I’ve always appreciated those naked cupids flitting around. Which is why I was surprised to run into my conservative friend Bruce during the weekend of Valentine’s Day. Bruce’s collection of bow ties is spectacular, and he invited me to admire the one he was wearing.

Great heavens. A closer inspection showed many tiny elephant “cupids.” “They’re Republican cupids,” Bruce said proudly.

“But they’re wearing pants,” I said. “What sort of cupid pursues his amatory business wearing pants? Your GOP really is uptight about sex, isn’t it?”

Bruce was uncharacteristically lost for words, and I’m still pondering this. It’s taking up way too much space in my brain.

The writer can be reached at [email protected].

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