Bay Reflections

Vol. 8, No. 42
Oct. 19-25, 2000
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Fall Cleaning
By M.L. Faunce

When the season turns fall-like, I get the urge to throw open the house to fresh air and sunshine. Cooler temperatures and shorter days just seem to set me in motion. I want to grab the vacuum and mop, pick up the paint brush and garb the pruning tools.

Sometimes there are unexpected surprises to this burst of seasonal energy. While I cleaned the upholstery of a favorite chair, crisp sunlight streaming into my living room, a shiny strand of silver hair woven into the fabric caught my eye. For a moment, I wondered if it was my mother's, though she passed from this earthly place nearly a decade ago. Besides, I thought, isn't my own hair now turning the color of hers?

Anyway, when did I last lean over to inspect and refresh this pretty blue wingback I wondered, shooting a hole in my annual top-down fall cleaning theory.

When you're getting into the nooks and crannies and edges and corners, cleaning has its own way of getting into the webbed nooks and crannies of the subconscious. It's not all mindless work, this seminal activity. We're not just cleansing a carpet or sofa, room or attic: this catharsis reaches into a reservoir of stored experience, memories entwined with some inanimate object that has no life but the one we have made for it.

This pretty blue wingback chair, more suited to a woman's size than a man's, has spanned the years in my home. Used mostly for quiet reading, it holds within its fabric a larger family story. Here, babies were bounced on my sister's loving knees. Catnaps were stolen - "just resting my eyes," Mama would say. From this perch, family stories were told, and we laughed till we cried.

Draped with a comforting cotton throw, this chair took center stage for serious life decisions and announcements. Low-key, coffee-klatch conversations were held here, too. Steaming cups of tea were part of the brew, with their own stories to tell: a refuge on restless nights when slumber wouldn't come; an island of peace when the TV news tuned in a world in turmoil. This chair was made for daydreaming. For cuddling new puppies with milky breath. For cradling a snappy old dog that, through the years, became sweet and fragile.

Neither an easy girl nor a lazy boy, the chair that sits by the window with the view of the Bay held and still holds the timeless strands of family life.

Thanks to a fit of fall cleaning, the pretty blue wingback in my living room is fresh and clean. Next fall's closer inspection just might turn up a kernel of popcorn gone astray during a heated game of checkers. Maybe even a thin, shiny strand of silver hair woven into the fabric. But, whether that strand of hair is my mother's or my own is anybody's guess.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly