Just like 32 years ago, my better half is out of town. Earlier, I wrote a column about how I dealt with being a married single parent, and I now realize that I missed one important coping feature that I'd incorporate into my loneliness.
Cleaning is one of those jobs I found I do better if I have no interference. It's a sensitive job, and I learned early in our marriage that the love of your life doesn't appreciate it when he comes back from a trip out of town and half his underwear has been sent to the big recycling pit in the sky. My husband has always wanted input into everything I do when it involves change in our household - OK, who doesn't - and this ranged from the addition of pets to just when underwear is no longer appropriate for the emergency room staff to see. The boys felt the same way, nothing came between them and their Batman briefs.
That said, I'd still clean. My husband has never shared my laundry fetish, so it was a done deal to clean the laundry room. I could have removed the washer and dryer and replaced them with a hot tub and sauna and John would have said "Amen." So cleaning up the debris from 3 years of diaper duty was just fine.
Since the bleach was out, I'd move on to the kitchen. I'd clean the sinks, cutting boards and anything else that looked suspiciously icky. I'd move on to the cupboards, and toss anything that was chipped, cracked, semi-melted in the dishwasher or otherwise unusable. John was always on board with getting rid of cups that cut lips, so this was safe.
Eventually, however, I'd hit the hard parts, the food. John and I are truly from different planets when it comes to food, and our pantry and fridge showed it. John loves chips, snacks, pickles, ice cream and other salty or sweet delectables. I was and still am a bread/starch freak but also I love anything chocolate. You can imagine on any one day the status of our food cache.
This became doubly interesting when we introduced little appetites into the equation. Peter and Roger were just as polar as John and I. Roger loved his top ramen, macaroni and cheese, pepperoni pizza and anything starchy and bland. Peter loved pizza, pizza and pizza, and in that order.
We seldom had leftover pizza, but on any one day, we'd have a fridge filled with nearly empty bottles and tubs of garnishes, relishes, snacks and dying unpizza leftovers. The produce bins were filled with scraps of lifeless lettuce remnants, onion skins and garlic dust. Cleaning the fridge became an enormous struggle. To this day, I cringe when I open the fridge door because it brings back memories of half eaten burgers, week old french fries (yep, our kids had their RDA of junk food) and unidentifiable green ooze in tupperware tubs.
You'd think that we'd have this under control once the kids were grown and gone, but, no. John is in Montreal and I'm faced today with the onus of cleaning the kitchen. Gone are the leftover Happy Meals. Who tosses half a Happy Meal, anyway, it just seems so ruthless? But waiting for me today are three bottles of wine that are 3/4 empty, some crusty pita bread and a half consumed bag of spinach.
I guess my point here is that some things never change. John traveled in 1977 and he still travels in 2010. Food still spoils. When Peter was little, I eventually tossed pumped breast milk, and then moved on to Happy Meals and burritos when the boys were bigger. Today, I'm tossing wine and epinards (that's French for spinach).
If you find that you are at loose ends when your partner is off eating in Parisian restaurants, clean the fridge. He really won't notice it if the old leftovers are gone, replaced with new ones. He won't miss the huge pickle bottle with 1/2 of a dill, nor will he miss the green bread.
But watch that hot salsa!