Recently a friend said to me, "I really like to clean house!" Unlike her, I have not found cleaning house enjoyable. However, certain satisfaction does come, mingled with relief, when the task is completed, no dust is visible, the tile and kitchen floors sparkle, and the carpet shows only the swirls made by the vacuum.
The other day as I was dusting, the thought suddenly struck me that certain phases of this cleaning task do bring pleasure. Although I have never been a collector of anything other than books, my home is full of treasures meaningful only to my sister and me. They are there in each room, some of them on bookshelves and others on tables, ready to claim my attention and bring back memories of family, of friends and of travels. They are the collectors - collectors of dust.
Dust cloth in hand, I approach a shelf in my bedroom that contains an eclectic collection. Stuffed figures of a koala bear and of Garfield sit on either side of six small books written by Dr. C. Roy Angell, a much admired pastor of the church I belonged to in Miami back in the 1940s.
But why the two stuffed animals? The night before I was to undergo
mastectomy surgery, a dear friend dropped by my hospital room with the koala bear. "You'll need him," she advised. "You can't look at this little bear without feeling better."
Then, as I was recuperating from the operation, one of my neighbors, who was a nurse in that hospital, came, bringing me Garfield.
Those two stuffed toys have been with me for eight years now, bringing many smiles but mostly reminding me of the thoughtful concern of friends. Certainly these two gifts brought much more joy than visits from friends who spelled out details of all their surgeries.
On the same shelf are two heavy paperweights, one a bust of William Shakespeare, the other of Anne Hathaway. These were a gift many years ago from Col. and Mrs. John Welch, former owners of Clearwater's Grey Moss Inn. Knowing of my interest in English literature, they brought them back after one of their numerous trips to England.
Recently, when visiting Mrs. Welch at the Osceola Inn, where she now lives, I mentioned the two paperweights and the fact that they are constant reminders of her. Her face lighted up in a smile.
Another item to dust is a trophy with the figure of a basketball player mounted on top of the base. He is stretching with ball in hand as if to make a basket. This particular trophy represents an outstanding group of students I had in my homeroom and English class back in my teaching days at Edison Junior High School in Miami. They were school champions, both in intramural sports and in scholarship.
I can still see the earnest expression on the face of John, one of the star players, as he asked, "Don't we get an award for winning all these games?"
When he learned that the school did not present trophies, he spearheaded a movement for the class to raise money to buy its own trophy. The class labored long to find just the right wording for the inscription to be engraved and finally came up with the one which reads: 8A 1 1946-47 ARNOLD CHAMPIONS BASKETBALL SOFTBALL A CHAMPION CLASS!
Because the school had no trophy case, the class insisted on making me the custodian. For the next two years, until I accepted a teaching position in Clearwater, members would stop by my room to see their trophy and relish again the victories they had won.
Preparing to dust the collection in another bookcase, this house-cleaner studies a pewter pitcher that is engraved on the side with "Lois from the Team '72-'73." It is not from an athletic team but from a staff of four reading teachers who worked with me on a three-year, federally funded project to improve the teaching of reading. The pitcher also reminds me of the many teachers who commit themselves to constant improvement of their teaching skills.
Nearby is a small, glass-enclosed case with some miniatures. Two of them are of blond cocker spaniels, which might be replicas of our Butch and Frosty, pets of several years ago. One of the cockers is even carrying a rolled-up newspaper, a trick Butch mastered. He would trot out to Keene Road each morning, pick up the paper and proudly bring it in. Eventually, however, he tired of this duty and would look at us with an expression of "Don't you wish I would!"
Another miniature with very special meaning is a little bird. A young English woman who lived in Church Lench, England, and who adopted us as her "American aunties," gave us this little brown wren carved from stone. It is only one of the constant reminders of the lovely times we have had in the Lench villages, where we hope to return before too many years pass.
The rooms to be dusted contain many other reminders, such as the
beautifully carved wooden bowls and lamp stand made by a special friend, the two antique straight chairs presented to my mother by a 95-year-old Civil War veteran simply because she admired them, and the carved wooden figures brought back from our travels in Germany and Scandinavia and from my sister's travels in Japan and Korea.
None of these items has great material value, but they remind me of friends and experiences that have enriched our lives.
Yes, when I bring these memories to the task of dusting, I might agree at least in part with my friend who likes to clean house.
Lois V. Arnold of Tarpon Springs was an English teacher and administrator in Florida and California schools for 43 years before retiring.