Leaf Raking and Window Washing

This post is from BCC Blogger Emerita Christina Taber-Kewene

I am running through my Vinyasa moves, stretching out my muscles before I hit the pavement for the one run I allow myself each week. My husband is sprawled on the couch, sleepily scrolling through messages on his phone. “The boys have a service project this morning: leaf raking.”

“Did you just find out or did you know about this all week and forget to tell me?” Both are entirely possible scenarios. 

“The bishop just texted last night.” 

I roll my eyes, frustrated, as I push my heels toward the floor in downward dog. My left calf still feels like a rock after last week’s run. The church folks are the only people in my life who think it is acceptable to plan activities last minute and expect us to drop everything.

But I gather myself. It is Saturday morning, the only thing we have to do on this pandemic day before I start work is to clean the house, and the girls and I can do that while the teens drive over to Newark. 

“Tell him you’ll be there with rakes.” 

When I return from my run, my husband is cleaning up from the chocolate chip scones and berry smoothie he has made for breakfast. I count dirty plates: four. All the kids are up. I raise an eyebrow at him, “Did you tell the boys?” 

“Yes, and I am getting all kinds of pushback,” he sighs. 

“Don’t poke the bear,” I remind him. “You just get out the door, and I’ll finish up in here.” 

We spend the next twenty minutes on the receiving end of moans, groans, slamming doors, and dragging feet. More than once I have to smoke a boy out from hiding in the bathroom. As our minivan pulls away, I brace myself for the moans, groans, and dragging feet of the younger, albeit slightly more cheerful, set. They don’t really do the door slamming thing yet. 

The mood is different now, lighter. Maybe it is getting the boys out of the house, or maybe it is the girls’ Spotify list, an eclectic mix of ‘80s rock, KidsBop, Taylor Swift, and the Zombies 2 soundtrack– nothing but the most erudite of selections for us. 

Last week I had a heart-to-heart with the baby (almost six years old, but always the baby) about how she has not been doing her part during chore time. It’s definitely my fault, as I let her get away with too much shirking. Today she throws herself into it, game for every task I send her way. My nine year old is similarly upbeat, even undertaking what she considers the most odious job, vacuuming. These kids are growing up. 

 The weather is unseasonably warm, and we throw open the windows as we dust, vacuum, scrub, sweep, and mop. Apologies, neighbors, for the music choices to which you are now subjected. 

The devil possesses me, and I decide to wash all those windows. It’s cumbersome– to get to the exterior glass, I have to pull up the bottom window, then draw it toward my body while simultaneously pulling down the top window and drawing it forward too. 

There have been long seasons of my life when even simple household tasks felt insurmountably difficult, and I couldn’t have dreamed of undertaking a job like this. I have cleaned and cooked and carried children while in excruciating pain. I’ve lain helpless in bed, recovering from surgery or just suffering through chronic pain while my kids and spouse cleaned without me. 

I volunteer with a young woman whose mother is battling cancer and currently recovering from a bone marrow transplant. She says the hardest part for her mom is not being able to care for her kids. I know. 

I check in with my body. I have not only run today but also scrubbed and lifted and carried, for hours now. Nothing hurts (except that recalcitrant calf, reminding me of my mortality). 

The baby joins me in wiping the fingerprints off the glass to the French doors that lead to the covered porch where my middle schooler and his friend often sit for online school. Sometimes I look at those greasy marks– they reappear daily– and feel so tired of these humans who now are always and unrelentingly with me. They shred paper like hamsters during online school in some weird, anxious habit, leaving piles under the dining room table; cook inedible things in my kitchen– even though they “clean up,” after themselves, it’s still a mess; and they weep over long division and yet refuse my help. 

“I like cleaning, don’t you?” she says, her little arm moving in circles, imperfectly wiping away the marks. 

“I do. I do with you.” 

Later that evening, after I have finished with my clients, my husband gives me the recap of his morning with the boys: “It was bad at first, bad enough that I had to pull the car over a few times.” Eventually, though, they arrived, and the boys raked. The sun was shining overhead, and they worked up a sweat through their labors, just as we had done at home. In the end there were milkshakes.

Comments

  1. Hope E Wiltfong says:

    Thank you for sharing. I can SOOOOO relate.

  2. Bro. Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing this. There have been moments of grace and beauty among all the ones of madness.

  3. Indeed, Bro. Jones!

  4. AK Transplanted says:

    Beautiful! A perfect snapshot of LDS life with young ones and youth. Thank you!

  5. I just wish I could read the rest of this book.

    Please tell me there is a whole book.

  6. Christina Taber-Kewene says:

    Brian G, working on it!

  7. Be careful with your body my sister. Beautiful post.