“The preacher’s coming!” Dad announced to Mom as he placed the old black phone back on its cradle. Mom quickly took in the “lived-in” look of our farmhouse and rushed to remove the pile of mail from the table. (After all, cleanliness is next to godliness!)
“Quick! Hit the high spots!” We knew what she meant; we had only a few minutes to get the place looking acceptable for company. The boys grabbed their school books and carried them to their bedroom. Deloris filled the kitchen sink with hot soapy water, and soon, with Darlene drying, they had every dirty dish clean, dried and back in the cupboard. Dorothy grabbed the dust rag, and she and I headed for the living room. She dusted around the lamps and photos. Just as I straightened the Bible on its doily on the bottom book shelf, we heard the knock on the door.
Months later another phone call foretold the arrival of more guests---the uncle and his wife and family from the east. “We’re going through South Dakota and wanted to stop and see you folks.” They would arrive in the morning.
Mom kept the place pretty clean all the time, but company called for extra measures. Since we only had a few hours, she instructed, “Give it a lick and a promise.” That meant to do the best we could for now, and later, we would do a more thorough job. We picked up our rooms, cleared dresser tops and used the dust mop to sweep out dust bunnies from under the beds. (Mom didn’t think it was funny when I told her I was growing mine to jackrabbit size.) We swept and mopped all floors and vacuumed the rugs. (We called them rugs, not carpets.) One of the girls wiped fingerprints from the white metal cabinets.
The next morning a bouquet of fresh flowers on the kitchen table, and a pretty clean house greeted the relatives.
The occasional spiff-up for company and the weekly maintenance kept the house in good shape, but when April came, and Mom caught the spring-cleaning bug, we took “clean” to a whole new level. “We’ve got to use some elbow grease,” Mom told us.
Every floor was swept and scrubbed on hands and knees. Vacuums sucked up dirt in corners and edges. A rag tied to the broom worked to sweep down cobwebs.
Our mother took pride in her kitchen, and each spring every surface in that room, ceiling to floor, was scrubbed, polished or dusted. We took down curtains and shades and washed the windows. Mom had to give her stamp of approval before they could be pushed back in place. “Did you get the corners? We don’t want any streaks.” Soon, freshly laundered, starched and ironed curtains fluttered in the breeze.
Years flew by. Technology advanced faster than during any time in history. Suddenly, we could do more, travel faster and stay in touch with more people than ever. Priorities shifted. Comedian Phyllis Diller touted her house-cleaning philosophy to the world: “Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?”
Today, if my pastor called to say she is coming, I would take a look at my “lived-in” house. Would I quickly hit the high spots? Well, maybe the tallest mountain peaks. Much more importantly, I would start the coffee pot.
Company coming from a distance? I might need to clear a path through the spare bedroom where I have deposited all the projects I plan to work on later.
Spring cleaning? So far I have swept down cobwebs from the ceiling and washed two windows.
Likely, I will accomplish a few more things, but in the meantime, it is imperative to get things into proper perspective. What is truly important in life? And, what exactly, are the high spots?
Kruempel’s newest book, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her 5-book series, Promises to Keep, are available on Amazon.com. Once Upon a Midwest Sunset (an excellent gift of memories) is a compilation of the stories from her NOOKS AND CRANNIES column, which was published in five newspapers in 2020-21. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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