Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, it isn’t food that dominates my thoughts. It’s cleaning the house.
For over 25 years, I have hosted our family’s Thanksgiving beginning at 5 p.m. Everyone is gone by 8 p.m. — except for some rebel rousers who will stay until 8:15. In addition to family members, there are always close friends.
My Thanksgiving traditions for all these years are my Aunt Ozelle’s Glorious Macaroni and Cheese and a deep scrubbing of the house which only sees a cleaning of the baseboards, window sills and drapery rods in November.
Without fail, I get down on my knees and scrub the kitchen tile with a tooth brush and refresh the grout with a marker. It is our kitchen table that is always the biggest challenge because it is littered with mail and work to do. It takes almost a full day to sort and file all of that.
Last year, I, for reasons I do not remember, ran out of time so I piled a lot of stuff on the floor of my walk-in closet. It was the only room that was not perfectly clean and appointed. The master suite is laid out so that you walk into the bedroom then into the bathroom and then into the closet. The door of that closet has to be shoved hard or it will drift open.
I did not shove it hard enough.
Someone chose to amble past the powder room, down the hall and into the master to use that bathroom which was sparkling clean EXCEPT that the door to the closet had come open and exposed what looked like a hoarder’s mess. It was awful. When I realized that someone had seen it, I wanted to drop to the floor and cry. It was like a knife through my gut.
For well over a week, I had spent every day, long hours, scrubbing, dusting, mopping and even cleaning the garage which people love to use rather than the front door. It does no use to close the garage door because family members know the access code or someone rings the front door and says, “Open the garage door.”
This is all my fault because I was the amateur designer of the house. I wanted a garage at the side of the house and not in the front. When people pull into the driveway, the easiest way to access the house is through the garage. I accept full responsibility for my folly so now I at times just leave the garage door open.
But the closet? Oh, my. How I wished that no one had seen that and had only viewed the plantation shutters that were without a particle of dust or looked into the vents of the heating/air system to see that each had been vacuumed then wiped down with a damp paper towel.
“Next year,” I promised myself as I looked at that closet and clutched my stomach, “I won’t care. I’ll make it look good on the surface then I won’t worry about baseboards, tiles and vents.”
But next year began to creep toward me and by middle October, I found that I did care. Very much. Three decades of habit are not easily tossed. It becomes ingrained, embedded to the point that it can’t be excised.
So, before Halloween, I began to clean. I did not wait until a week before Thanksgiving. And, importantly, I did not save the master closet until last. I started with it, first. I pulled out old clothes, stored summer shoes and organized jewelry and hats. I scrubbed the baseboards, vacuumed the vents and polished the wardrobe chest.
This year, not only will the garage door be open when the folks file in for a three-hour visit but the door to the master closet will be not be shoved hard.
It will be open for all to see.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column publishes weekly.