So the basement of my small ranch house is primarily Kid Territory (are offspring aged 19 and 22 still considered kids? Yes, by Jesus – but I won’t venture down that rat hole right now).
I venture downstairs to do laundry. The Guest Suite is located there, too (read, “eternally torn apart bathroom and dreary cellar bedroom with window too small to allow egress should there be a fire” – and, yes, I carry the guilt of inevitable future deaths with me already, since I stick innocent visitors down there in the radon-ridden dangerous dark). The Banquet Facility is down there, as well (that is, “festive makeshift dining room with splintery plywood table pressed into service whenever more than four people need to be fed.” Layer lovely old linens on splintery plywood and it doesn’t look too bad – especially if you pour lots of wine and keep the lights low).
Mother taught me that as long as the kitchen and bathroom are somewhat sanitary, one avoids White Trash status (assuming that one resists the urge to park old appliances out on the sagging front porch). Benign neglect is therefore my housekeeping philosophy, at least until company is expected. Unsurprisingly, the unseen cellar is neglected even more benignly than the main floor of the house.
Yesterday I was hucking a big basket of dirty laundry downstairs when I noticed something on the bannister. The bannister is old and is painted white, but generally has a rather grey tinge given all the grubby hands that grab it and the fact that only I ever notice or clean such things (and I have better things to do. Cleaning fronds of algae out of the toilet, for instance).
What caught my eye is that both ends of the railing were snowy white — someone had washed them. But in the middle he’d left it grey, and had painstakingly written “I’m Dirty” with a finger dipped in Windex, adding a smiley face.
I did not find this amusing at all. I found it so very un-amusing, in fact, that no-one in the household will admit to doing it. No-one will man up. They’re willing to cast vague blame upon my older son’s girlfriend, or perhaps upon her goldfish (other women my age are saddened by empty-nest syndrome. My nest sadly keeps getting fuller — the fish is just the latest addition). They shrug and look at each other and consider the whole thing a deep unfathomable mystery.
Perhaps, then, it was God —
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
He’s either telling me that my last cellar dinner party was a little too akin to Belshazzar’s Feast or that I need to adopt a more June Cleaver-esque approach to housecleaning – garters, hose, heels, pearls, and a piquant feather-duster.
My husband would enjoy the hell out of that. God would, too.