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Yesterday I checked my email and RSS feeds while letting lime-remover soak on the 70-year-old hexagonal tile shower floor.
The shower, which had not drained while we had company last August, and then, without intervention, behaved itself quite nicely, started draining very slowly last week. Robert had spent some time trying to remove the cleanout, accessible in the basement ceiling, to no avail. This morning, after trying baking soda and vinegar, which made satisfactory bubbling and gurgling noises, but failed to improve matters much, I managed to remove the drain cover, once I figured out the screws were missing and the holes filled with grout, and Robert snaked it out.
We went off to our ACE hardware to look for a new cover, since the old brass one had large holes and the chrome was wearing off. They didn’t have one, somewhat surprisingly, since they are an old-fashioned hardware store with many fascinating things that the big box stores don’t carry, and lots of clerks who come up and ask you how they can help. “It’s a very old shower,” I said, and the hardware guy said, hefting the cover, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore. They’re all flimsy now.” We got an aluminum cover that clips over the old one, hiding the flaking chrome, and, I hope, keeping hair from clogging the drain.
One thing leads to another, of course, and I decided that the stains and sloppy grouting job needed to be fixed. I was pleased with myself for figuring out that the yellow patches, which had bothered me since we moved in, were hard-water stains, and having a good time scrubbing them off. Then I saw a post on a sociology blog, where people were absolutely incredulous over a survey by the Scrubbing Bubbles people that concluded a large majority of American women of all ages like cleaning house, to the point of accusations that the survey was rigged, or just plain “made up.”
Since I was, in fact, at that moment, enjoying cleaning house, and not exactly someone who has ever believed “a woman’s place is (just) in the home” or that my identity depended on my housekeeping abilities, I was a bit ticked. Cooking and cleaning are crafts, as well as being essential, and just as satisfying, in performance as in results, as any other craft. I replied with the Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” One young woman thanked me for the different perspective, but another asserted her right to hate housework. Well, yes, but hating anything is generally a waste of time and energy; better to focus on the experience and doing the job skillfully.
The day we packed to move from Austin, New Year’s two years ago, we went to Lowe’s for some packing materials, and these cyclamen were there, 99 cents each, meant for bedding plants for winter color in Austin, where it never (well, hardly ever) freezes. They reminded me of miniature geraniums, and the geraniums on the windowsills in the Scandinavian country style I was thinking of for the new old house. Our house does not have generous windowsills, and they were just the right size. They traveled north in the cab of the moving van.
They bloomed cheerily until about June, in the terra-cotta-colored plastic pots they came in. The warm sun come summer didn’t suit them, and they looked decidedly unhappy until about November, when they perked right up and began blooming. Eventually I found the red-glazed miniature planters they live in now, and here they are, in their third winter, brightening up the kitchen against a background of the bare maple and snowy spruces.