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Cleaning marks the beginning of a new season

By P.D. Dickinson

Spring was always a time of renewal during our childhood on the farm. The trees, shrubs and flowers thrived with bursts of vibrant colors from burgeoning leaves and buds. The spring planting of gardens, corn and tobacco crops were always the primary concern; however, aside from the planting, there were chores to be done as well.
Along with the spirit of renewal, the season brought spring cleaning. We, kids, helped with the planting of crops and gardens just as we helped with all the other chores during the year. Everything — and I mean everything — was stripped down, cleaned out, dusted off, washed, freshly varnished or painted, repaired or
replaced.
From ceiling to floor and wall to wall, we cleaned not only in our home but the country store portion of our home as well. Any outside buildings and the yard area were also rummaged through and scrubbed.
We wallpapered walls. We painted or varnished woodwork on doors and facings, window casings and sills, the floors’ baseboards and hardwood floors — that’s when I learned varnish would “take your breath” if you got a big whiff of it.
In some rooms we laid new linoleum rugs or stripped and waxed tile floors. The big, long cardboard rolls the linoleum rugs came rolled on were fun for us, kids, to play with afterwards. However, the spring-cleaning didn’t end there.
We also took down curtains and washed or replaced them with new ones. One year, it was trendy to make kitchen and bathroom curtains out of towels with solid colors or a pretty print on them, so we followed suit and made our new kitchen and bathroom curtains from towels also. They turned out pretty, durable and easy-to-wash.
As we cleaned and scrubbed our kitchen, we were amazed at how much grime could build up so quickly. However, our parents did “season” food with lard back then, and also fried a lot of foods. Both cooking methods vaporized fine particles of grease, which rose in the steam from the cooking food and deposited them on the cabinets nearby. A good scrubbing with Murphy’s Oil Soap cleaned the cabinets nicely. When dry, we polished the cabinets and other items of wooden furniture with Old English Furniture Polish — the red-colored bottle was popular in those days.
After all that, you’d wonder what was left to clean. The answer was right outside our screen door. We were given paint cans, paint pans, stepladders and brushes. The long porch ran around three sides of our home and country store. The grownups would monitor us to make sure we weren’t painting each other more than the porch posts.
There were usually five to 10 of us kids around at a time (counting the cousins that were constantly there), so it didn’t take long to get the porch painting finished.
Whatever chores our parents gave us we always managed to find ways to make them fun, including the huge task of spring cleaning. Now that we’re adults, we realize that helping our parents was a good, practical way of learning how to live.

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