The Chief and I have been married 22 years. So we know each other pretty well. One thing I know about him: he loves a nice clean house. One thing he knows about me: I am no born housekeeper. I can clean as well as the next woman, but the art of maintenance I have not yet mastered. I say "yet", because I choose to believe that while there is life there is hope.
That is the backdrop for the following drama. It took place barely long enough ago for the river of time to round its edges.
The Chief had been out of town for a few days working, so the natives and I were holding down the wigwam. When the Chief had left, the wigwam was in a state of mild disaster that hadn't improved with age.
The morning of the day of his return I decided it would make him happy to come home to a sparkling house, and I was going to clean. I am not a great fan of cleaning. I don't know why; it defies logic, really, There is definite satisfaction in the whole process, a satisfaction I feel anytime I buck my natural inclinations and do it. And there really are few things I enjoy more than living in a sparkling house, so I don't know why I don't gravitate toward cleaning...but I'll move on here lest I get bogged on some psychological bunny trail.
I began in the morning by making a list. It was one of those lists you know from the very start you will never get to the end of. And then the cleaning commenced. Things were picked up. Manymanymany things. How we leave out so many things is quite beyond me. But I picked them all up, from one side of the house to the other. I organized and put away all my sewing project stuff. No small task. I went through the paper piles that accumulated because no one knew what to do with the items thereon. I did laundry and folded it and put it all away. I cleaned the bathrooms and scrubbed our shower till it sparkled. I swept porches, and polished windows and mirrors and door glass.
When the children came home from school I had them vacuum. And then I vacuumed again because I wanted it to be perfect. It made me smile just to think how happy it would make him. His face would light up a little and he would say "The house looks great, Babe." That would be all there was to it. But it would be entirely worth it. You know these things after 22 years.
I cleaned the microwave and arranged decor, and then I decided to get out the carpet shampoo and shampoo the spots on our bedroom carpet. Wow. It looked so much better. They had bugged me for awhile.
I was starting to feel a little sick but it looked fabulous, and I surveyed the results of my labor with supreme satisfaction. It was a good welcome home gift for my hardworking Chief and I couldn't wait till he came home. I made supper for the natives and they cleaned up the kitchen while I did more cleaning.
Before bedtime we sat down and played a game of Settlers of Catan together.
They needed some maternal interaction that didn't involve toiling at the behest of a driven woman. It was a fun touch to the end of the day even though I didn't feel so great.
While we were playing Regan realized she wanted a certain dress washed so she jumped up and threw it and a few other items into the washer...and then into the dryer.
We cleaned the game all up and put it away. A happy day for sure.
"It's not what you do that makes you tired, it's what you don't get done." I don't know who said it, but there is much truth in it.
The Chief still was not home, and I was feeling progressively sicker, so I took my shower, and got ready for bed.
I went and checked the things in the dryer but they weren't dry yet so I started it up again and tucked my nauseated self between the covers. It didn't matter if I was sick, it didn't matter if I was exhausted. The house was clean and the Chief was coming home tonight.
I was just drifting off when I heard him at the door. I lay there quietly, drowsily, happily, listening. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
He walked in....strode from the front door to the laundry room, opened the dryer door and said "How long has this dryer been running??? We can't afford to have this thing running and running like this. It still has 40 minutes on it!
I said, "I'm sorry". I should have made sure to check the time on it. I should have waited a few minutes and looked after that stuff before I went to bed.
But I was also incredulous.
He, after being gone for days had walked blindly THROUGH my decluttered sparkling, scrubbed, polished, disinfected wigwam, sniffed out the one thing wrong and fussed about it!
How could he??? What sort of beast was he anyway???
He was taking care of the things in the dryer, and making enough noise about it to properly punctuate his annoyance. Brisk, efficiency defined his every move when he was annoyed. I knew about him.
I hunkered down under my covers with my back to his side of the bed and simmered in my juices. When he came in I was going to be sleeping.
What was up with him? Not even a "Hi, Babe."
Why did I even bother? Suddenly my churning stomach and aching joints trumped all else. Just 10 minutes earlier they had seemed a trifling thing.
I would just go to sleep. I couldn't, at any rate, tell him how mad I was. That wouldn't be nice, and above all else, I was not the bad guy here. It was important that I maintain my faultless position.
I tried to go to sleep. By the time he got out of the shower I wanted to be traveling the roads of dreamland. He didn't tell me "Hi"? I didn't have to tell him "Hi"..
Despite my best efforts, my thoughts and my roiling insides prevented me from sleeping. But they couldn't keep me from pretending to sleep.
When he pulled back the covers I was the sleepingest thing in the room.
He crawled in beside me, "I shouldn't have mentioned the dryer, Babe. I'm sorry."
"That's okay," I said in the voice I imagined I'd use if I were sleeping.
Apparently, men married 22 years can sense resentment even in sleeping women. Well, fine. I hadn't done anything wrong except let the dryer run when the stuff was dry, and I had said sorry for that, so my sins were under the blood.
My physical ailments kept me awake long into the night, and while I lay there I obsessed like a spoiled bride with no brothers discovering for the first time that men and women are from different planets and speak different languages.
I should've remembered how mad I was the first time I was mad at him that he didn't have a clue that I was even mad. I should've been grateful that after 22 years together he could tell I was mad even when I was sleeping.
I finally got up in search of relief for my stomach and my joints. On the table neatly laid out were socks and various other pieces of clothing. They must have been from the dryer because they certainly weren't there when I went to bed. I went over and felt them. They were damp. The dryer hadn't been running with the stuff dry as a bone after all. The stuff was still wet.
I crawled back into bed and eventually, with my case against him built solid and strong, I went to sleep.
In the morning we awoke to my beautiful house, but he still didn't mention it. It was too late now, anyway, he had thoroughly blown the parameters of timely noticing.
The morning routine mercifully claimed my time and attention, and I was just glad when everyone was at school and work where they belonged and I could have some peace.
But there is no peace for the wicked, saith the Lord.
Reason began to creep in. Here I was in my nice clean house, and I couldn't even enjoy it because I was too busy obsessing. How absurd.
I thought of a book that I read that mentioned the "disappointed woman." This woman, it said, spends large portions of her life disappointed. Her husband doesn't meet her expectations, and she is disappointed... the project they had hoped to get done barely gets started, and she is so disappointed.....the grocery store was out of the item on sale that matched her coupon and she is so disappointed, because running in there again would cancel out any savings....the family reunions on either side of the family are planned for the same weekend in July and she is so disappointed.
These women choose disappointment concerning what they don't have, over happiness. Disappointment concerning what they don't have, over thankfulness. It is a way of looking at life that sucks the joy right out of existence and the light from their husband's eyes. (I don't know that the book said quite all of that, but it is true). I have thought of the disappointed woman a lot over the years and have strenuously avoided being her. And yet, here she was. Inside my own skin. The Disappointed Woman on steroids. And she could not have looked uglier. Ugh.
The light of truth continued to shine ......Who was I really cleaning the house for...the Chief?...or for the appreciation I would feel when he noticed? Obviously, the latter.
And then I started thinking about myself in relation to my heavenly Father. He has given me so much. Salvation. A beautiful world. The exact number of children we wished to have. Many, many friends. A wonderful church, A good husband (yes, it's really true) The list is long and luxurious...and yet, how often when I show up at His front door do I walk straight to the back door and say, "God, look here. Such and such is out of line. Why don't You fix it?" Too many times to count.
And what about the Chief.. really? He had walked in the door to a nearly dark house. After working long days and driving for hours providing selflessly for his family, he had to come home to a silent house with no wife at the door to even say "Hi Babe!" and the dryer running, burning up his hard earned money as fast as he could make it while the whole house slept.
So I had a little heart to heart with God about reality, and the joy started slipping back in. My house was beautiful. My heart was singing.
When the Chief came home that evening he put his arms around me and said, "I love what you're doing to the house, Girl." And it was not too late. It was right on time.