It got to be spring the other day. I can tell because we’re now waking up to the calliope of birdsong these days. No longer does the screech of an alarm clock stir us from our slumbers at oh-dark-hundred hours. And it’s not quite as cold.
Seattle has a particular brand of cold that cuts right through you. Most newcomers notice it right off — it’s probably related to the rain. That was my wife Marjorie’s first complaint.
Once, a few winters ago, we ran out of heating oil, and the house was really frigid when we finally crawled out from under the covers. It stayed that way for hours — even after the oil truck had filled our empty tank and the furnace had kicked on.
How cold was it? The house was so cold that morning that I had to jump-start my computer with blasts across the keyboard with the hair dryer.
But now, the Canada geese are on their way back north, sprouts are beginning to push their way up into the garden and the trees have buds all over. Marjorie just picked one of the season’s first dandelions and mailed if off to her sister, who’s deep in still-snowbound Michigan.
The coming of spring also means that our Magnolia domicile got its semi-annual “power clean.” We started by throwing out the remnants of winter. We finally took the Christmas tree off the patio and threw its bones away. A pile of dead needles marks where it once lay — and will probably still be around when next year’s tree gets thrown back there in the same spot.
All the general cleanup jobs we’ve been putting off doing during the winter finally got done. The basement stairs and the space behind the refrigerator were vacuumed, and all of the corners that have been harboring cobwebs and who-knows-what-all got scoured.
“What’s this thing under here?” my partner called from the next room, where she was purging the dust bunnies.
“I don’t know,” I yelled back. “Is it moving or stationary?”
“It’s kinda furry,” was the reply.
“If it looks friendly, give it a name, and we’ve got a new pet.”
When I shared an apartment at Michigan State University with three other fellow students during my senior year, we had names for all the “monsters” that lived around the place. There was the Tub Monster, the Sink Monster (it would even talk to you when you turned on the garbage disposal) and, probably the most dangerous, the Greasy Stove Monster. That spring, just before we moved out, each one of us had a cleaning task in which we each got a monster to “kill.”
It took my unlucky roommate two days to finally declare victory over the stove and oven. I was surprised when the tub finally came clean — I had always thought we just had a velvet-lined shower.
The stages of cleaning
When I started asking around about spring cleaning the other day at my usual stop for coffee, I got all sorts of varied suggestions. One of the most appealing was to make sure you live in a house with a water-repellent interior: Then you can simply walk in and turn a hose loose on the whole thing.
Another high-tech type allowed as how there were five different stages of spring cleaning. The first stage was light dusting (e.g. anything you could handle with a whisk broom). Electrical technology provided the second stage: He suggested the use of vacuum cleaners, floor polishers and electrostatic rug beaters.
Really dirty houses require that you move into the third stage and utilize heavy equipment. Bulldozers, steam shovels, pneumatic drills — all get called into use on this level.
The fourth stage is gravity cleaning: You simply open all the doors and windows on one side of the house, jack up the other side and push everything out the open exits.
The ultimate high-tech fifth stage is nuclear atomization. When your house is that dirty, you’re not just foolin’ around.
But I’m so glad that spring has come back. In spite of the housework and spring chores, it’s great to see that the golden orb has returned to the sky. I’ve even had my studded snow tires taken off the car.
Ozzy, the dude from across the street, is still telling me not to take any chances. He tells of years past, when a late-season storm dumped 8 inches of snow on the opening day of the Rainier baseball season. Maybe I won’t put my sled away just yet.
GARY McDANIEL is a longtime Magnolia resident. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.