The Scents of Spring

Green cleaning the low-tech way

TAKE A DEEP breath this time of year and your nose will take you on a magical journey back to your childhood.

The air is filled with everything from the fresh perfume of May flowers to the innocent scent of sidewalk chalk. For me, my olfaction takes me back to my own memories of springtime whenever I catch a whiff of… undiluted bleach.

Bleach was my mother’s go-to cleaner when I was a kid. She used it to wipe down every surface, orifice and countertop in our house. Eleven people and a dog brought in a lot of germs, and my mom was determined to kill them all. The germs that is, although, on several occasions her lack of proper ventilation while cleaning caused toxic fumes to almost wipe us all out. She used to always say, “A little bleach never hurt anyone.” I beg to differ.

From time to time a lovely woman named Josephine came in to help my mom clean our home. Josephine’s approach to cleaning was more old school (and greener) than my mother’s. She kept it simple with plain old vinegar and water. Consequently, the annual spring clean in our house came down to a battle of cleansers, and our house ended up smelling like a fish and chips stand inside a YMCA.

Cleaning your house back in the day was more complicated. Vacuums were sold door to door by a men who wore hats and suit jackets. Now we have central vacs and vacuums that bob and weave on a patented pivoting ball technology.

Getting my son to do household chores is, well, a chore in itself. He makes up his own chore list that usually gets partially done by week’s end.

If he only knew how easy he had it. Loading a dishwasher while wearing an iPod , pushing a Swiffer across the floor and tossing a duvet on top of his bed is nothing compared to the spring cleanings of my childhood.

I remember my brother and me spending an entire day weeding the whole backyard stone patio with two dull butter knives. Now with a couple passes of a weed whacker that job can be done in half an hour.

I also recall many hours of polishing silver as a kid. According to my mother, “Chicken à la king tastes much better out of a sterling silver entree dish.” I curse people who give silver trays as wedding gifts. I think that’s just a cruel joke to play on their future kids.

When I was young, I thought every household in the future would have a high-tech “Rosie,” the robot maid from The Jetsons. Things didn’t quite turn out that way, but we aren’t that far off with all the advances in cleaning out there. I’d like to think, with the shift to go green and save our planet, my son’s idea of futuristic cleaning will be more low- than high-tech. I hope his sensory memories will include the simple smells of vinegar and water, lemons and baking soda. He could use a little less technology and a lot more perspective sometimes.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and I’m sure my mom will pull out her silver dishes for one of her special brunches. Perhaps I should send my son over ahead of time to do some polishing. Let him gain a little perspective and find out for himself if chicken à la king really tastes better out of a sparkling silver dish or if it’s true that inhaling a little bleach never hurt anyone!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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