Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 9, 2009

The View from Sunnybank: Resurrection


Yesterday I woke up lower than a snake's bottom. Sometimes this depressing environment (unfinished rooms cluttered with wires, pipes, paint cans, tarpaulins, scaffolding -- not to mention my own inglorious "Pigpen" appearance) and the sheer scale of the mess I've been trying to fix nearly undoes me.

Rising was really difficult. Nothing helped. Not coffee, not lovely music from the painter's spattered CD player -- not even my plane ticket hanging prominently on the kitchen wall, sporting a dumb silver bow.

I hate it when I find myself in the Pit of Despair.

Leaving the three cleaners to tackle the wretched sunroom, I motored bleakly to Ross-on-Wye to shop for essentials, yet again. The sky looked threatening, the car demanded petrol, and my backpack chafed my shoulders. A black cloud hung over me as I walked Ross' very steep High Street (every British town's main street). For tuppence I would have gone home to Joe. Right then.

Muttering about depressed old ladies muttering, I bought my 10,000th cooked chicken, some sugar snap peas to munch and, wincing, a liquid cleaner, "Mr. Muscle."

In America I won't eat anything -- or use anything -- that introduces itself as "Mr." (Mr. Hot Dog always got my goat.) But now, I have no choice. The British stopped offering scouring powders, like Comet, years ago. Now there are only these inadequate spray cleaners.

They don't have Kraft salad dressing either. I long for a sandwich smarmed with that stuff ... moan ...

The British don't do sturdy wooden-handled straw brooms, either. Ever. Just darling, delicate little nylon push brooms in pretty colors that don't sweep and haven't a clue about cracks. No generously sized metal dustpans, either -- just teeny plastic ones in pastel colors, that break. Their working life in my cottage lasts about one day. This dear little blue pan (No. 8 and counting) was tossed wearily into my basket. Poor thing. Its life was now measured in hours.

I paid, visited David, banked, scarfed down fish 'n' chips, thumped to the car and motored home.

I nearly fell into the house jerking the heavy sliding door, as usual. That was the first clue. With a cleaned track now, it glided, effortlessly. Then, I sniffed CLEAN!

The transformation was stunning. The long row of windows sparkled. The walls and ceiling had been scrubbed. The upholstered furniture, parked outside in fresh air, had been whacked with industrial strength rug beaters, then thoroughly vacuumed, then shampooed. On the polished dining table was my favorite green cloth, and, in a chipped mug, daffodils from Helen's Wood. The once-filthy curtains, washed yesterday by these cleaners, now hung happily. That venerable tweed carpet looked familiar: Heavens, I'd forgotten its true color! And, just then, the sun came out.

Speechless, I bawled.

For four months I'd crawled over piles of boxes, coughed and gasped in that unlit pit, fallen many times because I'd lost my footing trying to navigate around endless power cables in the narrow track between mountainous piles, and now, ahhhh ... Now, I had a home again. Suddenly, I was back on track.

The two men and a woman proudly carried in the revived furniture; grinning, we arranged things.

After giving the room a quick spray of freshener they went home to clean themselves. They'd micro-scrubbed for seven hours, and changed the foul water in their huge machine five times. Those cleaners were exhausted.

It was a resurrection, for the sunroom, and for me. Though there is still much to do, this transformation turned me around.

I know now that I can do this, right to the end.

Dee Blair's Sunnybank Gardens are at 325 Sixth St. in Traverse City. Visit her Web site, for more information.