It started with the arrival last week of a rocking chair, the kind that marks a milestone in the commitment of an employee to an educational institution. We had talked for a couple of months about the chair; Richard had secured its safety in the home of friends with whom he had been living before he and I met this past winter. The addition of the rocker to the furnishings in my television room would create still one more space in the apartment where Richard and I could be comfortable in the other’s company.
For someone who did not count himself familiar with most current programming, the so-called television room had also become something of a catch-all for books and media and framed photos and a vase from Venice and gift bookends in the shape of monks reading. Recently my parents’ cedar chest had appeared, relocated from the home of a niece nervous for the safety of her toddlers; its surface made an impromptu home for an old-style boom box and stacks of CDs that would not yet have been returned to their shelf in the room’s bookcase. A towel covered the seat of my overstuffed recliner and allowed the cat another place to sleep when Richard hovered too near her usual haunts in the apartment.
Until the television room became a space that we could share, the gentle clutter of the room made no pressing claim on my attention. That situation changed as soon as I sat in Richard’s rocker last week and saw the room from a perspective that had not previously been accessible. The balance of the room changed. What I could see changed. What I wanted to see changed.
And then something significant happened: what I did not want to see became apparent.
So Saturday came with its fall sunshine and I began the cleaning. I could not explain to Richard what I expected the room to look like by day’s end, and so I gently declined his offers of help. The excitement of the task before me was a subtle one that I did not know how to share without losing its guidance.
For example, I had not foreseen the bucket of hot water and Lysol that I would need. With an old tshirt submerged in the soapy water and then wrung out, I wiped down the floor – under the bookcase, under the cedar chest, under the recliner. The sunlit air in the room smelled different when long months of dust disappeared.
I shifted stacks of CDs – both mine and Richard’s – and moved piles of books from one room to another.
I sprayed Endust on a paper towel and wiped picture frames clean. The faces of friends and family were clearer looking out at me from photographs behind the glass.
Even that distant time in Venice felt closer once the vase got some attention.
By day’s end, I was sitting in the rocker and looking over at Richard in the recliner as he read aloud to me from a library book. The lamp by the recliner was bright. The cat must have found the whole situation too inviting and jumped onto the recliner and settled into a warm space next to Richard.
I liked what I saw of the day’s efforts.