Washing the Walls
Every spring my mother would make me wash our hallway walls. That’s right. The walls. See, when my family moved into my childhood (Forestville, Maryland) home, the walls were painted with commercial-grade white paint. My mother was told this industrial grade paint would prevent her from having to re-paint due to slight marks. Instead the walls could be washed.
Oh, why, oh why did that man tell my mother that. My life changed the moment she caught hold of that wisdom.
Each Spring of my childhood, my dear sweet mother would turn into 'a cross between the Pine Sol Lady and one of those animated scrubbing bubbles.' Now, I don’t remember exactly which springtime Saturday she’d undergo this transformation, but her heavy-duty, spring cleaning mode was greatly feared. She never stopped cleaning until our home was good enough to host the First Lady or all occupancies on the first floor passed out from cleaning product fumes.
I remember when I was nine, my mother would busy herself scrubbing our kitchen floor with some ammonia-based, self-made concoction that killed germs and made bugs think twice about entering her kitchen. It was so potent that my brother would bolt from watching his favorite Tarzan movies and my sister would suddenly busy herself ‘hanging out' with friends. Seeing the change in tides, I would leave the house too for my own brand of mischievousness –climbing trees, trekking into the woods like Indiana Jones, or just eavesdropping on adult conversation. (Hey, it not my fault they didn’t look up the tree to see if anyone was there.)
Well when I believed my mom would be finished doing her ‘deep-cleaning’ thing, I always snuck back into the house.
I remember one time I tiptoed back in, all of the windows were opened so the once strong smell of cleaners were replaced with the faint smell of Pine Sol and Windex. As I made my way from the back porch to the kitchen, I saw my exhausted mother passed out on the couch. A part of me felt a little bad that she had to do all the cleaning by herself but a more rational kid part said, There’s no way to clean anything right for mother. She’s so picky that we’d both end up frustrated. So I shook off the sudden dose of empathy and continued toward the kitchen.
With my mind back on my mission, I slip off my grass-stained shoes and tiptoed towards my most sought after liquid refreshment. As a kid, my mouth watered just thinking about the full pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid. I loved how my mother always made it with fresh orange slices floating on top. And wouldn’t you know the moment I opened the refrigerator door, she called out, “Angie?”
I stood motionless, hoping she was talking in her sleep. I stood there for an
eternity with a vise grip on that pitcher handle, praying she didn’t know I was in
Then she said the words, I prayed she wouldn’t, “Angie, come help me wash these walls.”
I thought, What did she say? No one washes a wall. I don’t think black people do that. Go back to sleep, Woman!
I let go of the pitcher and returned to the living room but instead of seeing her resting on the couch, she was standing near the door… scrubbing the darn thing.
It looked a little funny to do such work but it was actually... well... working. I could see that what I thought was a perfectly white wall was actually a little soiled. What my mother was doing was making the room lighter, brighter.
I was so impressed, that I mistakenly said, “You’re doing a great job, Mom.”
That’s when she looked over her shoulder and tossed me her sponge. Once I realized that I was the second shift, I knew my beloved Kool-Aid break was a least a hour away.
Thanks to my mother, April makes me think about Spring cleaning. I cleaned my spiritual house this past weekend and learned the important of helping people that care about my progress as an author.
One person I met this weekend told me,“Family and close friends will always support doing what’s best for you. They won’t hate you or talk behind your back when you stand up for yourself because they had to do the same thing too." Wise words.
All of us have to do some Spring cleaning. For some of us, it will be about re-organization, for others, it will be throwing out what’s not working. Or, if you’re lucky, it will be about cleaning something off to make it like new again so you can appreciate what you have.
I want all of you to make sure you're going in the right direction with the people that believe in your dreams. Remember, if you don’t love and respect the vision you have for your life, no one else will.
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