Cleaning Day

“I should be mad at you for not letting me take the car,” she says. Her brows arch in surprise. “But I’m not.” She smiles. A small, sweet smile. The one I would sew a thousand tiny doll dresses, go on a million trips to the park, and bake a hundred chocolate cupcakes for. A yesterday smile.

She is mine for a few weeks. She told me so before finals. She said, “I will be hanging around the house for five weeks.”

I know that won’t happen. She already has plans. There are friends, events to go to, and a dance workshop.  There is a boy. There is always a boy.

Her schedule fills up so fast I can barely squeeze in her dental appointments, an eye exam, and a doctor visit. And she really should be evaluated for that persistent weakness in her ankle. She twisted it at school months ago, stumbling on the theater stairs.

“You were right, Momma,” she told me then. “I should have tossed those boots.”

The worn down heels made her ankles pronate. After she fell that day, I snatched the boots away and trashed them, sending her to buy new shoes with her ankle wrapped tight.

It’s summer break. Today she stays home. We clean. The guys installed an exhaust fan in my bathroom, and the white powdery dust from new cut holes and whatever else they did invaded the master bedroom. It coats everything.

We wipe with damp cloths. I wonder aloud, more than once, why they didn’t consider covering my work space with plastic sheeting. She shrugs, grown wise in the ways of women, knowing I need to grumble and fuss at the mess, knowing it will not make the least impact on our men.

First years are hard, and Baby Girl isn’t so special she dodged the common freshman bumps along the road. Stress and grief dogged her, on too many days panting hard at her heels, snapping. More than once with blood-drawing teeth.

Yesterday she came upon me, armwrapping me from the side. “I feel content,” she said. Has she ever said that before? I wanted to breathe it in, cradle her contentment like an infant-holding  momma smelling her baby’s hair. She still has that peace about her, end of semester relief not yet morphing into boredom and the fidgety unsettledness. We rest in this moment, the place between.

We wipe with the damp cloths. It’s so dusty. The rags have to be rinsed, over and over, water turning milky.

I go through the neglected stacks of papers. It wouldn’t be such a chore if I had kept up with the endless flotsam of every day life, but I couldn’t. Clutter accumulated without notice until now. The curtains needed washing, as did clothes left too long in untidy, neglected mounds waiting in vain to be folded away. The washer has been going all afternoon into evening. There are a pile of rags and towels in it now, waiting for tomorrow. It’s too late to start a wash now. Rugs are clean, floors mopped, ceiling fan dusted. The room practically echoes with good, simple clean.

I found things that have been lost for months. It’s good to wipe away the dust, to rest in the inbetween, finding contentment in the stripped down rooms of home.

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In My Father’s House

Last night I had a dream.

I was at an event, a gathering full of noise and laughter, but I left it behind to enter a side room through a set of French doors. Here was a sun room, narrow and comfortable, furnished with brown chairs and pleasant decor that reflected the light. There were a few plants and a rug. Everything had a muted aura, a wash of coloring that was not quite sepia, but more of a golden hazy glow reminding me of a movie effect to put viewers in mind of memories or what-ifs.

My dad was there, and in his right mind. I was bringing him a plate of food. I handed it to him and he asked me to sit a while, so I did.

It was him, but without baggage, and we talked with the ease of old friends. After what seemed a long time, he let out a deep sigh that came from the very soles of his feet. He set his unfinished plate on the wooden side table.

“I know this is your party,” he nodded toward the door that led to the large room, “But would you do something for me?”

“What is it?” I asked.

“My birthday is not for months,” he said. “I want to celebrate early.” His hands rested on his knees. Hands I knew, but didn’t know. He squinted up at me through his glasses. “Will you come?”

I grinned with a child’s delight. “Of course I will.”

He opened his arms to me and I went to him. Our arms wrapped around each other and nothing else took up the spaces between us. I could feel his frame, but not the sharpness of his bones. Then I let him go.

It was a beautiful dream.

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