Cleaning homes

We all have them. Nature abhors a vacuum but vacuums come with their own attachments. Some people are fond of their attachments and others say they'd like to get rid of them. Sometimes you don't have the attachments you need and you have to improvise. Attachments can get misplaced or lost, but they are almost always interchangeable.

It's easy for me to get attached to our clients. But it's the houses with their personalities, quirks and surprises, who are the real clients. Cleaning the same houses week after week you get to know them pretty well. You know where the dings in the kitchen cabinets are that you thought were dirt marks at first. You get excited about taking the rust stains out of the bottom of an antique -- okay a fake antique -- claw foot tub. When we move on from a client for one reason or another it isn't really the people I think about. Once in while I miss their houses.

I prefer older houses. The big new ones that all look alike are fine but predictable. No matter how much expense the homeowner pours into the landscaping or the front entrance to create uniqueness, the cookie cutter effect is hard to shake. And there's something particularly lightweight about the houses that go up in three months but appear to have been there for decades. One time Evan approached one of the rock pillars that flank many of these houses and took a closer look. Squatting low so he could see inside the pillar, he knocked on the rock and -- it rung hollow.

The neighborhood where 80% of our current clients live is a new community on the south edge of town. The oldest dwellings in the area are about five years old, and the newest ones have yet to be finished. Triangular orange flags whipping in the breeze delineate the property around these new groupings of houses and many of them are without landscaping yet. They are like baby birds in the nest, startling and large without trees or grass. They appear needy. One by one these houses will fill up with families and their stuff, grass will sprout and gladiolas bloom. Families will grow and move on. New families will move in, everybody leaving vacuums and taking their attachments along.

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Last year we worked for a family who lived in a large home sprawled on a rolling hill surrounded by a vineyard. They were a typically over-extended family with busy lives that kept them away from home, so many times we were there alone while we worked. Their house is a California idealized version of an Italian country home, but it's faux adobe like so many houses here, not the real thing. The pre-teenage daughter in the house is a Coca Cola fiend judging by the décor in her room. Ads plastering her bedroom walls proclaim, It's the real thing.

I have a picture in my head of one time, while cleaning the large mirror in the upstairs suite, catching a glimpse of movement in the sweeping vista of green reflected in the mirror. An impossibly tall jackrabbit, racing along the edge of the grapevine rows uphill, avoiding a hawk circling way above. I guess that's the rabbit's attachment to staying alive.

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