May 2, 2005

In-Law Panic

The In-laws are Coming. Today. The refrigerator has been cleaned and mystery foods thrown out. The "guest" bathroom, which I use when we don't have guests: scrubbed up and down. Next: all the boxes and oddments that have accumulated in the guest bedroom in the absence of the last guests. Then the dining room. We have had a whole lot of stuff (booze, candles, paintings, things that don't belong there) stacked on the table since we got my mother's antiques. Need to put all that in the new chest and the corner cupboard. Finally the living room (we don't have a family room) will be reclaimed for adults and children to use.

I still marvel at the thinginess of life. Especially life as a parent and homeowner. Where did all this stuff come from? The toys. The clothes. The paperwork. The food. For so many years I had a tiny apartment, a meager publishing salary, or an even more meager graduate stipend, and I was fine. Now, the stuff is here, along with a lot of joy, commitment of the best kind, and I suppose this is what it means to be grown up in America.

It's hard to get really excited about cleaning and organizing and maintaining stuff. I've been some zen-oriented books about this sort of thing: Sweeping Changes by Gary Thorpe, which is charming to the point of being odd,with lots of zen. I'm also reading The Zen of Organizing by Regina Leeds, which is more practical, the zen being just a trendy topnote. What I'm getting out of it so far is that sorting through and maintaining your things is a spiritual exercise in understanding the unity of all things. You leave guilt and judgement behind. You respect every thing that you have and give every one a chance to perform its proper function.

Cleaning frantically for one's inlaws is not in the plans of either Thorpe or Leeds, of course. Mervin and Marilyn are coming this afternoon. Serenity goes out the window today. Not that my inlaws are judgmental or anything. They're "salt of the earth" folks coming to the big, bad East from Indiana. They come here to see us and aren't interested in city adventures. I cook for them, Marilyn watches the children and does miscellaneous jobs (John inherited his admirable laundry-folding skills from her), while Mervin builds shelves, does electrical work and carpentry of any sort, and fixes simple plumbing problems. He gets the floor muddy and Marilyn scolds him.

Will is up. Breakfast time.


jo(e) said...

Whenever I've just cleaned frantically for company, I almost always looks around and say, "Hey, the house looks kind of nice clean." I wish I could figure out how to get the motivation to clean for myself....

I need the prospect of someone arriving in an hour to give me that adrenaline surge necessary to clean.

jo(e) said...

Notice how I usually beat Scrivener to the comments? That's because I am faster than him. We are both grading papers this week, but I bet I get mine done before him.

Scrivener said...

Notice how jo(e) wants to turn a pefectly nice, community activity like conversing with each other on the blogs, into a competition.

jo(e) said...

Hey, Scrivener, I would never try to compete with you. It just wouldn't be fair. Would hurt your self-esteem something awful.

I figure the more comments we leave, the more often Lauren will post stuff. And I really like the way she writes.