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Cleaning house: This is how I roll

Two weeks ago I received that call that everyone who is me dreads — "Hi, honey, your dad and I will be there to visit over the holiday weekend" — the call to emergency action of the dusting, vacuuming and sterilizing kind.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my parents and have been wanting them to visit for quite a while, but honestly, how foolish can they be to come stay with me before spring-cleaning season?

Pam Burke

I thought I raised my parents to make healthier choices.

These are the dark days of dust bunnies the size of woolly mammoths and spider webs so thick you need a machete to clear a path down the hallway. I haven't even shoveled this winter's accumulation of gravel out of the living room yet. Don't talk to me about the fridge.

My parents, bless them, don't judge me. They love me despite my complete disinterest in trying to keep my dilapidated old house tidy. I did, however, feel a certain obligation to, y'know, make conditions less like a petri dish gone awry and in need of special health code zoning.

Sure, my housekeeping can hold up to a brief visit of an hour or less, if I keep the lights down low, maintain eye contact so glances can't stray to the dingy corners, and don't offer anyone a drink that might make a visitor want to wander back to the bathroom. But we're talking about a three-day, two-night visit.

At some point during their stay, one of my parents will be bold enough to open the refrigerator and then "Oh, hmm, the milk jug seems to be stuck to the shelf." Or their eyes will wander to a photo on the wall and then "I think there's a spider or, um, other creature living behind that frame ... staring at us."

We're talking 54-plus hours. At some point they'll have to use the bathroom. I'm pretty sure.

So, I was grateful for the two-week heads up and have tried my best to make good use of that time.

Week 1: This time period was crucial to the success of my cleaning endeavors, as is all groundwork for historically important projects. I spent that week pondering and compiling a list of all the things I need to do.

Day 8: Got up early and, with to-do list in hand, spent the entire day googling Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia because, well, why not?

From my extensive research I learned that 1) according to everything I remember from high school geography, somebody moved Nepal. 2) China should have its hand slapped for erasing all the dotted lines delineating the Tibet border. And 3) Mongolian horses are very short, and the people do a type of throat signing that sounds like a didgeridoo mating with a whistle.

I also learned that Hungarians are remarkably fond of archery contests performed from horseback.

Day 9: Watched mounted archery videos and researched compound re-curve bows planning my new career in horseback archery competition.

Day 10: Got serious about cleaning: a two-foot diameter circle of the carpet after the dog upchucked on the floor.

Day 11: Took a much-needed day off.

Day 12: Broke a lampshade, then spent an entire quarter of an hour cleaning the little pieces off the floor and the afternoon shopping for a new one — lampshade that is, although a whole new floor would've been OK, too.

Day 13: Decided the dog needed a bath before I cleaned the shower, but succumbed to his pitiful entreaties and spent the rest of the day with the cold, damp, 45-pound dog wrapped in a comforter on my lap in the easy chair. We watched TV and ate popcorn. He's better now. Can't say the same for the shower.

Day 14: Remembered that real people don't eat cold cereal and ice cream for dinner, even in a pinch, so went grocery shopping then spent the rest of the day fighting hives from having to shop twice in one week.

Day of arrival: Just gave up and decided that if either of my parents should ask: "Do you always live like this?" I'll just have to tell them the truth.

"No, definitely not ... I don't usually have those two clean spots. And the dog doesn't always smell so pretty."

(Please have your passport and proof of tetanus shots on hand before entering


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