Friday, March 26, 2010

Check the dustcasts and postpone the spring cleaning

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Spring is finally officially here, and our thoughts turn, not so lightly, to … cleaning supplies?
No matter how lightly you take it the rest of the year, there’s something about the advent of spring that weighs heavily on the average woman’s conscience.
At least, women of a certain age. I think most of us who are Boomers and beyond grew up in households with moms who were spring cleaning fanatics.
They may not have actually vacuumed and dusted attired in crisp shirtwaist dresses, high heels and pearls, like TV stars Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson — and Barbara Billingsley and Jane Wyatt, the moms in “Leave it To Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.”
But they saw it as a realistic and admirable goal, and never could quite understand why we found it so silly.
I thought it might be a Midwestern syndrome, but I’ve found the spring cleaning compulsions hit me every year in March, even in high desert country, when it’s the worst possible time for major cleaning.
It probably makes sense to deep clean in other parts of the county, when the snows are melting and combining with April showers to wash everything clean. You can wash the curtains and hang them outdoors on lines with the rugs, throw open the windows and refresh everything with fragrant spring breezes.
Here, however, instead of fragrant breezes, we have ferocious, dust-laden winds.
And if you’re new to the region, and still think the winds and occasional half-hearted droplets of rain have any scouring and cleaning potential …
Well, just take a look at your car after a stint in a spring storm, one of the rare ones that yields a bit of moisture. It’ll end up polka-dotted with gray-brown dust, the sticky kind.
And our ubiquitous, sticky dust is the main reason to skip, or at least delay, spring cleaning marathons.
I learned the hard way. My first year, I did it all. I scrubbed the tiles and rugs, waxed the floors, washed the blinds and curtains and even washed and polished all the windows, inside and out.
The next day, the first of the spring storms started, with a little bit of rain, winds that reminded me of my last hurricane-filled years in Florida, and dust, lots and lots of dust.
Dust that spotted my gleaming windows. Dust that creeps in, like poet Carl Sandburg’s Chicago fog, on little cat feet … and small grandchild feet and big adult feet.
Dust that also seeps through the best insulated door and window frames. Dust that sticks with peanut-butter-to-roof-of-the-mouth tenacity to just about everything, even the blades of fans you turn on in every room, hoping to drive it away.
It also makes people crabby, and in concert with desert blooms, aggravates our spring allergies.
But in my more cheerful moments, I try to remember that we have it better than many places I’ve lived. The winds really are not as bad as the Florida hurricanes or the Midwestern tornadoes and snowmelt floods. And the dust isn’t anywhere near as sticky, irritating and voluminous as the volcanic ash that buried us in the Pacific Northwest, when Mount St. Helens erupted.
The sensible thing is to move our megacleaning events to a calmer season, like summer or winter.
But old habits die hard and when I was notified of a spontaneous spring visit, my instincts were still to pull out all the stops and get back into the full-tilt spring cleaning mode that seems hardwired in my DNA.
Then I remembered my patina philosophy.
So I may run the vacuum, change the sheets, polish a mirror or two and flick a dust cloth here and there, just to keep my hand in.
Then, I’ll explain to my guests that what they are seeing is not dust, but a fine, weathered patina I’m cultivating, a patina that is prized by Santa Fe snobs and top decorators throughout the Southwest.
Or, for now at least, that’s my story and I‘m sticking to it.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450

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