I don’t vacuum.
When my husband was but a wee-one, he fell in love with the vacuum cleaner. Just imagine LittleBrother — my husband’s clone — pushing around a little toy vacuum cleaner. Just the thought makes me grin, makes me melt. His love of the vacuum cleaner never ceased. That long-standing love only grew over the years, blooming into the reason that we own one of those pricey yellow Dyson vacuums.
I didn’t even touch it for almost a year after he bought it. I didn’t have to. He vacuumed happily. I actually had to call him at work to figure out how to turn it on the first time I needed to clean up a mess. It scared me; I didn’t want to break his previous, beloved sweeper. Since that time, I’ve run the vacuum, oh, a handful of times. Even since getting a dog, my husband has lovingly (or, begrudgingly — maybe something in between) swept up massive amounts of dog hair.
Which brings us to this morning.
I’m still attempting to get over vacation exhaustion. I lounged about in bed a little longer than usual this morning, the gray of yet another rainy day encouraging me to stay between the sheets. As per usual, BigBrother arrived in my bedroom with a smile on his face, blanket in hand. Without asking, he lifted the covers on his dad’s side of the bed and slipped beneath, wiggling his warm body until it found rest against mine. I sniffed the top of his head; it smelled like summer sun and Peanuts soap-slash-shampoo and… boy. We rested peacefully for all of seven seconds before he rolled away from me.
He squinted at me. “He worked yesterday.”
I nodded. Overtime comes in abundance during the summer months. Between scheduled summer vacations and light duty for various co-workers and the other stuff of summer and, you know, fires, the phone rings a lot. Not one to turn down extra money, my husband often works the extra shifts.
“Is today his regular day?”
I nodded again.
Last summer, LittleBrother went through a similar issue when my husband worked several shifts in a row, taught a class, and had another training day. “Why does Daddy have to go to work every day?” His face scrunched up, mortally wounded and personally offended by his father’s lack of presence. I hugged him close. “It just happens sometimes, Bubba.”
Of course, other families send parents off to work every day, but it remains an abnormality for us. I greatly prefer when he goes to work for 24 hours and then comes home — and stays here — for 48 hours. Mainly, I like his company, but I also like the way he runs interference with the boys when I’m attempting to have a conference call. I like the way he does the dishes after dinner. I like the way he helps with laundry, plays with the dog, and, yes, vacuums the floors.
This morning, my husband at work in the midst of a broken 36, I decided to run the vacuum. Not because I thought, “Gee, I should be helpful!” No, I got down on the floor to play with my nearly-year-old puppy and got back up covered in hair. “Fine,” I thought. “I’ll run the vacuum,” I huffed to no one in particular. With one boy downstairs finishing up computer time and the other reading, reading and more reading, I figured I could knock out a quick sweep before I foraged for lunch for the three of us.
I fought it out of the closet, shocked by the weight of the thing. “Are you heavier?” I asked the vacuum. No reply. I unwound the cord, plugged it in… and then realized I forgot to pick up all of the dog toys and the dog bed. Callie peered at me skeptically as I returned squeaky toys and tri-colored ropes and “indestructible” rubber bones to her toy basket. I do this multiple times every day; stepping on the corner of the bright orange chewie that she has gnawed into a point is akin to stepping on four LEGOs at one time. I don’t enjoy it, so I pick them up. Every time, she peers at me as if she is formulating plans on when to get each toy out, where to leave it so that each toy annoys me as much as possible. I give her a pointed look that says, “I am the owner; you are the dog.” She sighs.
Returning to the vacuum, I start it up and begin my methodical sweeping of the room. First, where her dog bed normally rests; a German
Shepherd Shedder, she leaves hair all over said bed, all over the floor around said bed, and everywhere. Ever. I move to where her toy basket sits. Along the front of the couch. Toward the bookshelf. My arm begins to tire. “I really need to get back to working on my arms. I can run for hours but I can’t push a vacuum for three minutes?” I’m talking aloud again, raising my voice to hear myself over the whir of the vacuum. The dog peers again from around the corner. “What?” I ask her. She hides.
I continue my march around the living room and my mind begins to wander. What does my husband love about vacuuming? Why is this his “thing” that he does? Why does he find such joy in holding up the canister after sweeping every nook and cranny, every hidden spot within the couch. “Look! LOOK! GROSS!” So proud that he saved us from the mess of everyday living, the hair of dog ownership, the gross of having skin that sloughs off and floats through the air, of dirt and more dust and pollen and cheese puff dust and cracker crumbs and, dirty look at me, Pretzel Crisps pieces. I don’t get it, chalking it up to another one of the differences between the two of us.
I finish, clicking off the machine, proud of my brief work. The dog peers back around the corner, checking to make sure I am actually done before she slinks carefully around the corner. She walks slowly over to where her bed is supposed to sit and sniffs. She checks the toy basket area. More sniffing. She walks over to me. Sniff, sniff. She looks up at me, confused. I shrug.
My older son comes running out of his bedroom to tell me something about the book he has been devouring since yesterday afternoon. He stops short as I bend over the vacuum, winding the cord. “What are you doing?” He, too, peers at me.
I look at him, still winding the cord. “I vacuumed.” I smile, proud of myself. I don’t hold up the canister though.
“Why?” His tone drips with incredulous disbelief.
“Dog hair. Everywhere. My shirt got all Callie-fied.”
“But… but dad vacuums.”
I sigh, roll my eyes. “I can vacuum too, you know.”
He looks around the room, judging my work. “I think he does a better job.”