By Alex Berger
The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for Nature to follow. Now we just set the clock an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase. — E.B. White
On March 20, when the sun crosses over the Earth’s equator, spring will arrive. That moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the time when the earth begins to warm, night and day are exactly the same length and this balance encourages people to do crazy things, such as trying to balance an egg on the sidewalk.
Gloria does crazy things, too. She will place a vacuum cleaner in my right hand and a mop in my left and think she is contributing to the balance of Nature.
Spring: Birds shimmer and quiver on the river and joy will be everywhere (except for me).
What is so special about spring, anyhow? I know it marks a period of renewal. Leaves on trees and flowers in fields will bud. The days gradually will grow longer and the weather will get warmer. Animals will emerge from hibernation. And we put away our heavy clothes and exchange them for lighter ones.
But, horrors, I also know spring is time for spring cleaning.
There is no serenity so fair as that which is just established in a tearful eye [in the spring]. — H.D. Thoreau
Hey, H.D., did you know that spring establishes a tear in my eye, too, but for other reasons?
Each spring, Gloria trots around the house examining every nook and cranny. Why? Because it is spring cleaning time. The fly in the buttermilk, however, is she wants me to do the cleaning. I tell her a quick way to make our house look clean is by pricing a new one.
The sweet sounds of spring: a robin singing, a frog croaking, a music box tinkling in your heart. A raindrop, a tender kiss, all do their part. But, alas, no sound is meaner than my vacuum cleaner.
Gloria will point to the broom, mop and vacuum cleaner closet and then eâˆ’mail remind me it is easier than painting me specific written instructions on the when, where and how. Ech! Do not ask how many times I painted. When we first moved in, our bedroom was 15 by 26 feet. It is now 6 by 8 feet!
One time Gloria caught me falling down on the job. She found a copy of her Good Housekeeping covered with dust. Oy!
Yesterday, I discussed my plight with my neighbor, Morris, who suggested I try his plan to avoid spring cleaning.
“Before you activate my plan, you must first shower, shampoo and shave. Then pluck the gray hairs from your eyebrows, douse yourself with ox musk cologne, tussle your hair, squint your eyes, approach Gloria in a John Wayne meander and say in a deep, baritone voice, ‘Dearest, why must I spend wasted hours spring cleaning? People would rather be out in the spring fresh air having fun than visiting us.
“‘And, besides, should friends drop in, they would be more interested in hearing about the things I would be doing — instead of vacuuming — such as learning to speak Vietnamese, writing poetry, listening to music or reading Hemingway.’
“‘To continue, honey, life is short. There are many rivers to cross, multitudes of mountains to climb, friendships to cherish and a wondrous life ahead for us. I must explore the world out there with the sun in my eyes and the wind in my hair, amidst a fluttering of snowflakes or a patter of rain. Remember, sweetheart, a house becomes a home only when you can write ‘I love you’ in furniture dust.’ ”
Gloria melted and relented. “All right, I will do the spring cleaning,” she said, as I cheered inwardly, “but you will do the vegetable gardening.” I moaned outwardly. She pointed to the rake, hoe, spade and shed and then eâˆ’mailed me specific written instructions on the when, where and how. Oh, the agony of it all.
Spring is wonderful. It makes you feel young enough to do all the things you’re old enough to know you can’t. — Franklin P. Jones
Thanks, Frank. You said a mouthful.
Readers, I learned a hard lesson: Always be careful what you wish for. If your wife wants you to do spring cleaning, not painting or gardening, kiss her and take her out for dinner, but never eat the veggies. They may be from my garden.
Contact Alex Berger at [email protected].