What is it about retirement, very hot weather, and a pandemic that can make one look forward to doing the laundry?
I ask this basic question because unlike my siblings and my friends—or maybe they just want me to think they love it—I detest housework. The prospect of doing any housework at all while working full time was an insult and an unfair burden; a Sisyphean task that was never accomplished because of the inevitability of dirt accumulation.
The husband is an indifferent cleaner at best. He preserves his energies in perfectionism to music, carpentry, and the best way to attach things to walls and ceilings. I myself have been since childhood a terminal slob. However adulthood and various mishaps over the years with landlords and things has taught me to attend to cleaning, that and the satisfaction that comes from a carpet well-vacuumed.
I retired with no misgivings at all a year ago. There were parties and gifts. Then packing and moving, and moving, and moving—several trips between Albany, Oregon and Seattle. We bought an even bigger house—but when you live all your life in 1000 square feet or less, the thought of downsizing for old age didn’t even occur to me. The first several months were spent on repairs, painting, furniture purchases, window dressings, and 10 yards of compost. (I brought a good portion of my Seattle garden with me.)
Then travel. A jaunt with a friend to Palm Springs just before Christmas and then two weeks spent in Mendocino, California with my sister, coaching her through total knee surgery. That was the end of February and the beginning of March of this year. You can imagine what happened after that.
Quarantine was easy for us, as I’ve noted in previous blogs. Grocery shopping, farmer’s market, driving between the small Valley towns, pretty much was the core of our lives. I had/have plenty of time to write, edit, and put the final touches on the garden. The first several months didn’t feel any different from the last several months. There is streaming. There are books. There are long walks. There’s the sewing of masks.
In July the weather finally got around to the heat we had been expecting, well aware that summer temperatures in the Willamette Valley can be warm. (Today is 80 and that feels pretty nice—in Seattle this temperature would feel less comfortable.) As several days of temperatures in the low to mid 90’s laid their heavy hands on us, I noticed a change in my behavior.
For these summer days, I have brought my laptop to our new, big deck overlooking the garden and composed—as I am doing now. However when the temperature started to reach 80 degrees by 9 am and then begin its inevitable climb to 90 and higher, the length of time I could spend outside, whether writing or planting, weeding, mowing, disgorging pots and transplanting their occupants, was becoming shorter. Meaning, to my dismay, that I had to go inside.
I am a person of outside. I will be outside whenever possible wherever I am. On a balcony, on a walk, in a park, beside a swimming pool. Thus the prospect of having to spend my afternoons indoors is depressing. One day as I was thinking about the 95 degree day upon me, and wondering what I was going to do besides—after writing, of course—read, stream (crazy to turn on the television on a beautiful sunny day—that should only be done when ill or snowing) or napping, I realized that I could do the laundry.
This gave me something to hope for. I gathered up the clothes, loaded, soaped and pushed the appropriate buttons. When the clothes were washed, I took them to our new, big deck overlooking the garden and hung them on the retractable clothes line we installed. In this heat they would be dry in no time, and smell good, too. Then I could retreat to a book, and when I was done, comeback, remove the clothes, take them upstairs and fold. Also, I could iron!
How wonderful! Instead of having to use our bed as an ironing board as I did in our last house, I now had a space to leave my newly purchased ironing board up and ready for use. I happily iron napkins and place mats—and the masks I have sewn. Sticking in my ear pods I listen to a recorded book as I work. Marvelous fun.
Then there is vacuuming. The house came with carpeting and money grew tight after we had the fence re-built, so we still have carpeting. However after it’s vacuumed, it doesn’t look half bad.
Loading and unloading the dishwasher, walking around with a bio-safe spray cleaner and wiping surfaces, sweeping the new, big deck overlooking the garden, and Windexing dog drool off the sliding glass doors have been added to my preferred tasks.
The house never looked so good.
Yesterday and today, as I have said, the high is 80. I am outside again. However I still have the urge to neaten, tidy and care for. So, yesterday late morning I weed-whacked the garden paths. I can see from the new, big deck overlooking the garden that it too, has never looked so good.