My husband is out of town for a week on business--something that doesn’t happen often, and something that in the past has coincided with marginal disasters on the home front, like 13 inches of snow and no gas in snowblower.
Or the time the dog needed to get to the emergency vet stat with a blockage that turned out to be a partially ingested Ove Glove Hot Surface Handler (I opted out of surgery and later found it in a flame-resistant pile of poop ).
Or the time when our daughter had to move out of a fifth-floor apartment (no elevator) and into a third-floor apartment (no elevator). Or when our then 17-year-old son came into the kitchen and said, “Um, is my pee supposed to be that color?”
This time? The offspring are off, out of the nest, free of infections, happily settled into their apartments, doing whatever they are doing (see Facebook). The dog is curled up, on my feet, under my desk, thankfully having developed a disdain for anything with a nonslip grip.
And maybe it’s because the winter has been more of a spring than winter, or maybe it’s because I’m sick of tripping over my husband’s shoes in our shared closet, or maybe it’s because he’s not here to tell me what I can and cannot put in the Goodwill pile, but I am in full-throttle, closet-cleaning mode.
Why five pairs of slippers? Three of which are so worn out, they are more sandal than slipper? I get that his frayed-collar t-shirts are soooo comfortable, but . . . he can’t find comfort in two? He has to have eight?
And the sad, saggy jeans that he keeps for painting, although he hasn’t gotten around to painting in five years.
And, dear God, not another blue dress shirt!
I re-hung. I folded. I stacked. I reappointed wire shelves for his shoes. Team-themed shirts lived harmoniously next to his polo-slash-golf shirts.
His kilts--yes, kilts--I hung next to the rugby shirts, naturally. The Hawaiian shirts that somehow kept reproducing were a problem.
They needed their own archipelago. For all their outward easy-breeziness, they were a bit high-maintenance. (For one thing, they needed special nonslip hangers. Padded.)
The tiki lounge shirt that languished next to the piña colada number, the Easter Island shirt that nuzzled the hibiscus floral that slid next to the bouquets of Georgia O’Keef-ish tropicals--they all needed more air space.
My corner of the closet became just that, a corner, indicative of how I felt about my self-worth because, after all, he is the one who brings in the lion’s share of the income.
And me? I always feel that because I don’t bring in a lot of money to the family coffers, I don’t hold up my end of the donkey. This is all me. My problem . . .
My self-flagellative introspection was interrupted by the phone. It was my husband, telling me how well things were going, how happy the client was, etc., etc., that all his nights of tossing and turning before he left had been for nothing.
He asked what I had been up to.
“Oh, nothing. Saw a couple movies. Writing. Cleaning.”
“When you say cleaning you don’t mean painting, do you?”
“No, I’m cleaning.”
“This ‘cleaning’ isn’t something that I’m going to have to fix when I get back, is it?”
I’ll admit that in the past, I thought repainting the dining room would be something I could surprise him with, that it would be an afternoon project once I'd stripped off the wallpaper. But I hadn’t planned on the plaster coming off with it.
That was six years ago, and he still hasn’t gotten around to improving my home improvement. We tell people that our distressed walls are the new thing. “As seen in Architectural Digest.”
I waited for him to say something about not giving away his shirts, or his slipper-spats, but he admitted that our closet needed a makeover. That he had meant to do it, but had gotten sidetracked with work and football games. He had nothing but confidence in my capabilities.
He added that this couldn’t have come at a better time. He had found a specialty shop. Hawaiian shirts.