Geri-Antics: What springs to mind

Published 12:30 pm Monday, April 3, 2023

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By Anne Carmichael


Spring is a time of renewal and hope.

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Nature paints our planet with signs of new life. The brown, crusty earth is again carpeted with greenery and brilliant floral displays.

Wildlife that has lain hidden in hibernation or has flown to warmer climates return and produce yet another generation of their young.

The human species shake off the winter doldrums. We resolve to eat better, exercise more, and dust off and polish the surroundings we’ve been ensconced in throughout the winter chill.

My childhood memories of spring were quite tactical, as are most of my memories.

I remember the taste of spring. It tasted of green onions that permeated the cartons of milk at our school. Fields in spring are rife with green onions, and cows love them.

Spring smelled of vinegar and bleach in my youth, at least at my house. As soon as the weather was warm enough to throw open the windows (or at least the sunshine made it seem warm enough), my mother would call in her troops – both grandmothers and all the aunts who weren’t otherwise committed to jobs or their household duties – for the official start of spring cleaning.

Now we’re not talking about a day of sweeping, dusting, and mopping. No, we’re talking about taking down some 20-plus metal Venetian blinds and soaking them in bathtubs full of the aforementioned vinegar solution. Curtains were washed, dried and ironed. Draperies were sent to the dry cleaner.

Slipcovers in fall and winter colors and prints were replaced with lighter, floral print covers.

Throw rugs were hung outside on the clothesline and the dust and dirt pounded out of them with woven rattan rug beaters. I think the ladies rather enjoyed this chore, as it gave an outlet to all the frustrations that might have built up over the winter months, having been isolated with cranky spouses and bored children.

When wall-to-wall carpeting replaced area rugs, heavy machinery was rented to shampoo and steam clean them twice a year. Between these cleanings, a heavy, brown Hoover complete with headlight frightened both pets and kids. My mom had to hire a teenage neighbor to keep me occupied whenever that monster came out of the closet.

Our large house had about 30 windows and no spring cleaning would have been complete without at least four people on the inside and four on the outside cleaning the glass with buckets of (again) vinegar solution, a plethora of rags made from old sheets, sponges, and something called shammy rags (a suede-like fabric that makes glass sparkle). Supposedly, this chore was relegated to a cloudy day, as sunshine makes streaks challenging to see. Also, before the advent of electric or gas clothes dryers, all these rags had to be hung to dry and there seemed to be only so many to go around.

Additionally, every tchotchke, every piece of dishware, glassware, and all the silver had to be cleaned – not just feather dusted, washed, dried and returned to its place.

Even the men were enlisted at night and on weekends. Baseboards and woodwork had to be touched up. Furniture had to be repaired or replaced or moved. And, of course, landscaping, yard work, and outdoor home repairs, were relegated to the male species.

Spring cleaning lasted a week or two, sometimes longer. I managed to make myself scarce – you know, to stay out of their way, but mostly to avoid being asked to participate and become their gopher – go for this, go for that. Whenever I was entrapped, I quickly learned never to do the appointed chore correctly. I constantly asked for instruction and eventually, it became easier to do it themselves than to deal with an amateur like me.

Modern conveniences with which we’re blessed (albeit not altogether grateful) today, coupled with more hectic lifestyles and both spouses working full-time jobs, has made spring cleaning shorter in duration and often even obsolete.

Most of us do what we can when we can in our all too infrequent spare time throughout the year. Spring is when we breathe a sigh of relief from the inclement weather and associated uncomfortable and tedious winter tasks such as snow removal, plumbing and heating emergencies and power outages. Tasks that go unattended are merely added to our ever-growing list of stressors.

It would behoove us all to view springtime with fresh, uncomplicated eyes. See the beauty in nature’s display. Revel in the colors of spring’s pastel palette. Get healthier. Get invigorated. Soak up the healing rays of the sun. Do things that bring happiness and calm.

Forsake dust bunnies in favor of Easter bunnies.

I promise the chores will be there waiting when you have the time.