Spring Cleaning

Messy rooms tell stories. The tossed shirt indicates haphazard motion, the folded-down frame brokenness, the lone sock confusion. Messy indicates busy, slobby or even homey. Clean indicates wealthy or obsessive. Her mother’s family loves clean rooms. Everyone gets together and drinks hot coffee from mugs printed with pictures of babies, cats, or dogs, always emblazoned with an inspirational quote. “Reach for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars,” or “Best Aunt/ Grandma/ Mommy Ever.” The women then proceed to gossip about family and the local community

“Did you hear, blah blah and blah blah are getting a divorce!”
“God forbid that anyone actually stays together!”
“I feel for the parents… everyone thought the grandchildren were on the way.”

They then pull her in close for too tight hugs that reek of department store perfume and air freshener, and leave garish purple lipstick stains on her cheeks. They then comment on the stain on her shirt. Her clothes are like a room for her body, even more immediate than the walls that surround her, so she doesn’t mind a few stains. They tell people that she doesn’t care. That she can handle the mess.
They ask how school is and return to sitting around her family’s large, cherry red dining room table. And after the food is done, the women head to the kitchen to begin the cleaning spree. Dishes are washed; tables are wiped down, all while the incessant chatter continues. A few snarky comments are tossed out by one aunt about the other. They have been rivals for years. One cleans better than the other.
Mother wants everyone to sit down and talk instead of immediately fleeing to the dish soap and towels, but she is no better than the rest of them. When mother and daughter fight, Mother’s body is sent into a frenzy of motion. In a loud, angry voice her bathroom is critiqued, as is her lack of courtesy and respect. The words are volatile, just like her mother’s cleaning motions. Mother is up and down the stairs. She ignores it. Behold, her room still maintains its messiness, its love, its hominess, its sense of her. She will not be rubbed away by dish soap or hardwood floor cleaner. The chipped paint and broken electric socket should be fixed, but their brokenness belongs to her. She broke that socket when her bed slammed against it by accident. Her bed has wheels on it. Sometimes she feels like she will just roll away. Sometimes she even wants to.

Shara Feit, Age 17, Grade 12, Sar High School, Silver Key

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