Friday, June 20, 2014

On Plugged Vacuum Cleaners and Fierce Moms Properly Humbled

This is a story about How My Life Goes.

These things do not happen to other people.

Bob Welch the famous local author once saw me swatting flies and wrote in his newspaper column that I was this gentle person and that was probably the most violent thing I’d ever done.

Let’s just say he’s never seen the drill sergeant side of me, like the time during our recent visit to Minnesota when I was saying goodbye to Matt and he didn’t want to get out of his chair to hug me and I snapped, “Get! Up!” and he said, “The last woman I heard give orders like that was a two-star general, about to be promoted to three star.”

Bob had also never seen the Avenging Angel side of me.  It doesn’t come out that often, but when it does, oh, People, stay out of my way.

Here are two things that let loose the Avenging Angel:
1.      1.  Empty pitchers put back in the refrigerator.
2.       2. Clogged vacuum cleaner pipes due to people vacuuming up stuff that was never intended to get sucked up a vacuum.

Today Jenny was helping me with some cleaning.  She tried using one vacuum cleaner, but soon put it away, declaring that it left a little pile of dirt instead of picking it up, and used the one from upstairs instead.

Oh my.  A sure sign of a clogged pipe.  I felt the AA wings unfurling.

Then I knelt down and took apart the vacuum cleaner, click by click, and oh my goodness, you never saw such a nest.  I pulled and plucked, and then Jenny helped out by blowing into the other end, dislodging some more, and I had some words to say.

Such words as would make you flinch for the rest of your life at even thinking of rolling over that twist-tie or button and trying to vacuum it up.

I thought I’d gotten the point across to all the offspring who were at home.

So then I sat down and wrote a poem about it.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Your mother shifting into gear.
This morning a daughter tried to vac
But the cleaner would only spit and hack
Like a dying sheep whose end is near.

With grim resolve I approached the task.
I should have worn a breathing mask.
I popped off the pipe and out came wads
Of dust and various ends and odds.
What else might be there? I did not ask.

Carefully then I dug further in.
Out came an ancient bobby pin.
A strip of card stock six inches long
A bottle cap still round and strong.
All stuffed up into that tube of tin.

“Who did this again??” I asked with wrath.
Haven’t I shown you a better path?
Haven’t I lectured and lessoned a lot
What goes in a Hoover and what does not?
Yet still you’re unable to do the math??

They looked at me with guilty eyes.
I felt a need to apologize--
Not to my children in frightened pause--
But to all of my future children-in-laws
Stuck with these vacuumers so unwise.

Then I felt better.

However.  I still had some children who might have been the guilty ones and weren’t here for my lecture.

After a while Emily came home, along with Esther Mae and Abigail, two friends who had spent the week with her teaching vacation Bible school at Winston, two hours away.

We all hung around the kitchen making supper and doing dishes and getting ready for the purse party we were hosting later in the evening.  Both visitors are a lot of fun—Esther Mae is energetic and witty, and Abigail is quiet and creative.  They both fit right in, and Emily said, “Esther Mae said she just feels at home here, because our house isn’t all spotlessly clean.  And stuff.”

Esther Mae suddenly realized how this sounded.

I told her it was ok.  That is the sort of compliment I tend to get.

After a while Steven came home.  I had a strong suspicion he was the culprit in the plugged vacuum cleaner, but I thought I’d give my rant to him and Emily at the same time, so it would look a little more fair.

So I started in, marching from, “I am SURE I’ve explained this to you before!” to “Vacuum cleaners are not DESIGNED for stuff like bobby pins that are going to stick in the pipe” to “SERIOUSLY we should not have to be going over this again!”

I watched them keenly for signs of guilt, ready to pounce on the culprit with Lecture 2(b) 32 about a fine if this happens again.

Esther Mae and Abigail listened with interest.  I did not tone down my tone for their sakes because, as I said, they just fit right in with the family.

Suddenly Esther Mae said, “It might have been me.”


“Really.  It could have been me.”

I looked at her, dumbfounded.  She has never vacuumed in this house in her life.

She said, “You were gone.  Emily let me use your vacuum cleaner.”

Oh. My.

I listened in disbelief and the Avenging Angel’s wings drooped humbly as Emily explained, “You were gone to the International Student Convention, and I stopped in at their house, and here Esther Mae was upstairs cleaning her carpet with a broom, and I was like, ‘A broom??’ and she said they don’t have a vacuum cleaner, so I let her use ours, and she filled the hopper three times.”

Esther Mae added, “And the stuff you found?  Like, a bobby pin and paper and a bottle cap?  That could all very well have been on our carpet.”

Oh, how my tone changed then, from harsh to kind, from judgmental to full of grace, from fierce to smiling, from prideful wrath to meek humility.

"Oh, really, it's okay, really, I shouldn't have been so upset."

Strange how my children enjoyed watching this transition in their mother as she ate her words, bite by bite, bitter as dandelions, chewy as beef gristle.

My children were more gracious than I deserved, and so was Esther Mae.

And that, as I said, is how my life goes.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: You know how sometimes you step on an ant but you don't squish it?  It keeps right on going.  Well, I wonder if it's possible that if there were a giant that much bigger than us, they could step on us and we wouldn't get squished.
Me: You THINK about this stuff??!!
Emily: [sigh] I lose sleep over this stuff!


  1. That's hysterical! Loved it.

  2. Guilty as charged!! Right here. Me.

    Kinda funny - hearing it put this way. Sorry, I had to laugh... but I shouldn't have cause I KNOW how in "the moment" that can easily strike another cord.


    I hardly use my vacuum either...if you must know. And so, I think Esther Mae's "feeling at home" confession was classic. That was my most favorite part of this whole story. ;)

  3. Loved your poem.

  4. You are so honest and transparent! Most people just put pretty pictures in our heads, so I don't want them to come visit me, because my house is like yours. You can come visit me anytime :-)

  5. Read this while taking a break from cleaning my house. Loved it! And I really enjoy your writing. Thanks for sharing your gift.

  6. Your poem was great! Yep I can relate also lol.

  7. Loved it. People tend to give me similar "compliments". There are just too many things to do to keep a house sparkling clean.

  8. LOVED this story! this type of humble-pie happens often with me and my big mouth :)

  9. Get a Dyson. They are so easy to take apart and clean you don't mind vacuuming up everything.