It’s a new vacuum. An unsolicited new vacuum.
Like cooking, I consider vacuuming to be something that show-offy people do. And also people who are not quite as deep and sentimental as I am.
The floors in my home read like a history of our family. In that corner you might find Cheerios from this memorable day, under that rug you’ll find sprinkles from that special day. It’s lovely, really. And since I am incapable of ordering pictures or assembling family photo albums, Craig and I just sit on the couch in the evenings, gazing from pile of floor crap to pile of floor crap, reminiscing. We find this quite special and creative. But if you are the vacuuming type, I don’t want you to feel badly. I’m just suggesting that kids grow up fast, so you might want to consider setting aside some floor memories. That’s all.
Several years ago, I started suspecting that my friends had different beliefs about vacuuming and memory-keeping. It seemed they were opposedto using floors as scrapbooks, because their carpets always had those fancy lines in them. You know the lines to which I’m referring? Those fresh, show-offy, “I just vacuumed” lines? So I started getting a little uncomfortable about my un-liney carpets. Now, one might predict that this discomfort led me to re-evaluate my vacuuming boycott, but one might predict wrong. I find my vacuum to be very heavy and ugly and inconducive to relaxing. There is nothing that leads me into a cursing tirade faster than trying to lug my vacuum up two flights of stairs. And Jesus said: if your vacuum causes you to curse, gouge it out . . . or something like that. So actually becoming a real- life vacuumer wasn’t an option, since I love Jesus. (If you do vacuum, I’m not trying to suggest that you don’t love Jesus. I assume it’s possible to do both. I’m just saying it’s not likely. Not likely at all. )
In any case, it was becoming clear that I needed to start thinking creatively about this vacuuming issue.
One day I was watching Tish stroll her baby-doll around the family room in a little pink baby stroller. And when my gaze fell to the floor behind her I noticed that the stroller wheels were making perfect lines across the carpet. Perfect, fancy “I just vacuumed” looking lines. And I thought…CHA-CHING!
For the last three years, before company arrives, before Craig comes home from a trip, every time I feel like playing dutiful housewife, I call Tish and ask her if she’d like to take her baby for a walk. And Tish says, “A reg-a-lar walk or a careful walk, mommy?” And I say, “A careful walk, honey.” When she was two, I taught Tish that a careful walk is when you stroll your baby back and forth across the carpet in such a way that the stroller lines run perfectly parallel to each other. . . back and forth, back and forth, back and forth . . . you see where I’m going with this. And so for three wonderful years, mommy sat on the couch and cheered for Tish while she and her baby-doll vacuumed.
And Craig would always come home and say, “WOW! You vacuumed!” with the same proud tone he uses when I cut a tomato all by myself. And I would just smile and bat my eyelashes coyly but never answer directly because honesty is very important to me.
It was a miracle, really. Except that one night I saw Craig looking quizzically at my carpet lines . . . and I realized with terror that he was finally noticing that my fancy lines were completely surrounded by our usual piles of floor crap.
I had anticipated that this might be the fly in the ointment. So I real quick mumbled something like “Stupid vacuum’s broken. But nice lines, huh? Look! Shark Week is on!” I have been mumbling variations of those sentences for three years now. With great success.
So when Craig walked in the house recently with this surprise vacuum, I was suspicious that he was suspicious.And so I watched his face verrrry closely. And right after he said, “Look! This will make life so much easier! I hate for you go to all that trouble with that broken vacuum and never get the results you want . . .” I noticed a faint smirk and an itty bitty centimeter of an eyebrow-raise. It was almost imperceptible. But I saw it. And so my first thought was . . . He knows. He knows about the stroller vacuuming. The jig is up.
But I recovered quickly. And my second thought was: Oh. The poor guy really doesn’t know who he’s messing with here. He has grossly underestimated the depths to which I am prepared to sink to preserve my way of life. He just doesn’t know.
The other day, after Craig left for work, I told Tish that I had a surprise for her. I announced that since she was such a big girl now, it had become time to pass down her itty bitty baby stroller to Amma, because I had bought her a brand new, big girl stroller. I explained that big girl strollers look very, very different than little girl strollers and even make big noises like cars! Because big girl strollers have engines.
Time for a careful walk, baby. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Your move, Hub-Dog.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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