As I drove away, I thought that Mrs. C should be front-page news, not black mold stories.
By Marilyn Mackenzie
If you're as old as I am, you probably remember the hustle and bustle of spring cleaning. I was too young to participate much as a child. But I remember it well.
Walls were washed or painted anew, toys were thrown out. Each home had a huge pile of trash in front of it, waiting for the special trash collection. And neighbors often stole off into the night, exploring each other’s trash piles to see if something might be salvageable.
Kids rejoiced at finding someone’s old bike with no wheels. We'd think, "Heck, I can find some old tires and have another bike. Or maybe I could sell it." But as soon as we brought home someone else’s junk, it ended up in our own trash pile. Once a year, our families were serious about getting the junk out of our lives.
I was reminded of the importance of spring cleaning when I worked at the newspaper. As the first one in the newsroom every day, and usually the only one there until about 10 a.m., I received many phone calls about possible stories. When breaking news occurred, I had to contact editors, reporters and photographers. But, in a small town, a small county, breaking news didn't happen every day. Most calls were about musicals and plays, reunions.
One day, an interesting call came in about black mold in a house not far from the newspaper office. I knew that one of our reporters was already working on a story about black mold that had been found in some of the local schools.
I learned from the caller that black mold is the worst kind and that not long after she and her husband and children moved into the house, they were forced to abandon all of their belongings and move out. The home that had cost them $47,000 had now reached repair costs of $62,000 and the repairs were not complete. The insurance company was balking at more repairs, was stalling on when they might be able to move back to their home. This family of five was squished into a very small 2-bedroom home while their 4-bedroom home was repaired.
The black mold stories made front page news a few days later. The story prompted more calls from businesses and homeowners experiencing the same problems.
One day, I spoke with an elderly long-time resident of the area about the black mold problem. She promptly told me that nothing about the weather or humidity had changed in our area. She also told me that she thought she had the answer to the problem and the reason why black mold was appearing everywhere. She reminded me of the spring cleaning sessions of old.
My elderly friend said that there was a good reason why homes in the south often had white walls. It was so the appearance of mold was evident immediately. She also informed me that using bleach on the walls every spring or painting them every year was good for our health. Further, she explained that spring cleaning usually included cleaning out chimneys and ductwork, and vacuuming air vents.
My friend attributes the many allergy problems in our area not to the chemical plants nearby but to the fact that we neglect good cleaning practices in our homes. She said there were no "sick buildings" back then because even businesses closed down to make sure they were cleaned thoroughly, and schools were thoroughly cleaned and painted during the summer. One has to wonder if she is correct.
As the conversation halted, I thought our visit was finished, but I was wrong. My friend announced that the problem with today’s families, with the world around us, in fact, was that we have neglected "spring cleaning" our lives as well.
She observed what a different world it was when there were "Blue Laws" and everything was closed on Sundays. "Even those who didn't attend church," she said, "had a day off, a day to rest, a day with their families, a day to clean out the cobwebs from their minds."
Mrs. C, although 75 years old, insists that each of her grandchildren visit her each summer. She has 16 grandchildren, so they visit two at a time. Her entire summer is spent with grandchildren, and for a woman her age that could be rather tiring. But she feels it is her duty to teach her grandchildren the importance of being children, something she feels their worlds don't allow them to do during the regular school year. She says this is her way of "spring cleaning" her grandchildren.
During their visits, her grandchildren wake early each morning. They take turns picking Scriptures to study, they pray together, and sing praises to Jesus.
They take turns learning to fix breakfast, nutritional meals, not just cereal or pop-tarts. They have chores each day. Sometimes their chores are boring inside cleaning chores. Sometimes, they spend time in Mrs. C’s yard and garden, learning to identify plants and how to prune. While they learn about gardening, their grandmother continues teaching them about God.
After the chores are completed, they take off for the beach. They don't just swim and lay in the sun. They pick up shells and watch for sand crabs. They learn about sea creatures and about sun and wind and sand. And they continue learning about God.
Afternoons are spent leisurely. Mrs. C admits she sometimes has to nap in the afternoons, since she is aging. Her grandchildren read – books that they have selected together at the local library – classics and books that Mrs. C loved as a child.
After resting, sometimes Mrs. C teaches her grandchildren how to knit or crochet – yes, even the boys. Sometimes she teaches them to sew. Usually, she takes them into the kitchen and shares one of her many secret recipes with them.
Supper has always been early in Mrs. C’s home, since she has always retired and risen early as well. The children help with cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Then, if they choose, she allows them to visit with neighbor kids they've met over the years. Usually, though, they opt for staying in and continuing their lessons. Sometimes the neighbor kids join them as they listen to classical music or maybe the recordings of Nat King Cole. Rarely do they watch TV. Instead, they play board games or put jigsaw puzzles together.
Even though some of her grandchildren are now teens, they love visiting their grandmother. They love being able to be kids in a world that forces them to grow up too soon. They love the lessons she teaches, the time she spends with them. And they can't wait for their turn the next summer.
Our visit was finally over, and as I drove away, I thought that grandmothers such as Mrs. C should be front-page news instead of black mold stories. Simplicity and love like this is rare. Mrs. C really knows her "spring cleaning."