I did my spring cleaning in October this year, in pursuit of an olive-green coat. My college son left his wool peacoat behind in his scramble to get to school by Labor Day. As soon as an early frost blanketed the campus, he gave me a ring and left this message on our answering machine:
"Hi, Mom, it's me, Matt! Would you find my coat and send it to me? It's in my bedroom closet or, er, maybe the hall closet or the cedar chest downstairs. Anyway, I know it's around somewhere. It's olive-green, with a hood. Thanks!" Click.
In our house, a request for a simple item means a full-scale investigation, an activity that's a lot like spring cleaning. As in cleaning out closets. Ugh.
Remarkably, I have never been seized by that compulsion the way my mother was every May. She went beyond closets. Spring cleaning meant car mats on the front lawn. Cupboards evacuated and scrubbed. Windows washed on both sides. Cobwebs disengaged. Sweaters packed in drawers filled with mothballs.
No, it's never been the calendar that's inspired me to clean closets and the like. It's more the need for my favorite ski hat or my other rubber boot or a glove without a hole that gets me sorting and throwing. And what follows is the absolute joy of discovery! (Fortunately, the entire closet gets cleaned out along the way.)
Case in point: My husband-coach would misplace his clipboard between seasons. Aha! A journey into the inner core of the hall closet. Behind the Christmas ribbons. Under two feet of wrapping paper and three trench coats.
I'd reassure him, "I know I saw it here, dear. It was in November when the soccer season ended and I was wrapping a gift for so-and-so...."
COULD it be lodged between an umbrella and a carpet sweeper? Behind a sleeping bag? Maybe ... maybe ... yes! My pulse would be racing. Aha! There it is!
I'd feel like a hero. Now, with a burst of confidence (cleaning's not so bad), I'd prepare to go beyond the clipboard to sorting out the boots and hats, bringing a new order to our lives.
And so it's the same routine with the coat. With fall vigor and purpose (I do not want to buy my son another coat), I peer into every closet in the house, leafing through countless hangers, coming face to face with a Boy Scout uniform (nostalgia), a ski parka (it's a bit too early for that), and finally, deep in the recesses, a collection of nubby sweaters in fall colors Matt would love and must need, but forgot to ask me for, so I'd better send them, too....
But on my way to the coat (it's gotta be in here somewhere), I organize the sweaters, vests, and shirts, smoothing out the wrinkles and throwing out the bent and gnarled hangers, all the while reminding myself to be grateful for the journey.
For I never would have discovered these other treasures (or cleaned this closet) without hunting for that olive-green coat that I'm really supposed to be looking for - and might it be on the last wooden hanger way, way in back?
Yes! I can see it now.