Time for a little backstory? When I was a kid we washed the windows twice a year, once in the spring, and once again in the fall before winter arrived. This was a major production, and coincided with the changing out of screens vs. storm windows. The house I grew up in had aluminum triple track windows, and we had to swap the glass for the screens. Doing so was a major PIA, and usually involved some colorful language and a stepladder. My father got the job of hauling the heavy glass panes up or down, depending on the season, while my mother vacuumed the screens and washed the fixed panes, and we kids washed the storm windows on the grass.
The trouble was, as I recall the days we did this were always cool and breezy. I remember dipping my hands into my mother's homemade mixture of Palmolive, ammonia, and water and scrubbing with newsprint while my fingers went numb with cold. Occasionally I'd get to change out the solution and I'd sneak in hot water, but it would cool off quickly. We'd crouch on the damp grass and clean those darn storm windows until they sparkled, and by the end of the project we were stiff, freezing, and grumpy. But the windows were clean. We felt virtuous.
Now, of course, I don't have to deal with removable storm windows, but I mentally cringe every time I look at my windows. My mother, bless her heart, has never said anything about them, but I'm certain she notices. (She'll clean almost anything in my house, including the telephone and the washing machine.) But the windows are my responsibility. A couple of days ago I was contemplating recreating the scenes from my childhood, and enlisting my spoiled, violently protesting children in a major Window Washing, knowing of course that I'd end up doing the vast majority of the work myself (as my mom did; we kids only cleaned the removable storm windows). I'd feel like I had accomplished something. Maybe I'd feel better about the disaster that is my housekeeping. Maybe I wouldn't have this sinking pit of shame in my stomach every time the sun streams in to reveal the windows in their filthy glory.
And then, yesterday I heard that a good friend was mourning the loss of two people. Three storm chasers were killed in Oklahoma. A member of my writing group's friend has discontinued chemo in order to make the best of the months she has left to live. Our young cousin, born a few weeks after my elder daughter, has a serious heart condition that will require urgent surgery.
I'm not directly affected by any of these circumstances, but learning about them all in one day had a real effect on me. As I sat outside waiting for the school bus, I thought to myself, "Life is too damn short. And this is why I don't wash windows."
If I die tomorrow, I hope that I will be remembered for something more profound than a tidy house. I'm going to stop thinking of my house as a disaster, and instead think of it as "creative chaos." We're an energetic, active, creative bunch, and cleaning just isn't one of our strong suits. So, I'll stick with the Windex-one-at-a-time approach. I'll never feel virtuous about my housekeeping, but cleaning up after I'm gone will be someone else's job. In the meantime I will pour my energy into my children, my husband, my books, and my garden and pets, all things that will love me back and remember me for the attention I've given them. Here's to dirty windows. Peace!