Monday, July 9, 2012


When my mother was a girl, in Utah, there were chores to be done. I never thought of them as Utah-specific chores. My sister-in-law did the same milking in Vermont. My brother and I did the same dish washing in California. But I've begun to wonder about the dusting.

When my mother, as a girl, was in charge of dusting, she did it every week. She didn't just do the edges, either, she actually bothered to lift up candlesticks and books and whatnot so she could run a cloth along the table or the shelf or whatever underneath. And when she taught me, as a girl, to do the dusting, she taught me pretty well the same thing. But she also taught me there was another school of thought. My aunt, for instance, believed dusting was unnecessary until there was enough dust accumulated on a given surface to draw one's finger through it and write a legible word.

While I did my best as a girl to dust in my mother's style, I always suspected my aunt had been on to something. I never owned a dust rag or can of Pledge in adult life, but then I didn't acquire wood furniture, either. Really, as long as I maintained the nomadic existence of a new apartment every year or so, I found an annual dusting entirely adequate. For years my only dusting routine has been a final wipe of windowsills and plastic blinds before I turned in the keys and reclaimed my security deposit. There must have been the occasional touch-up when company was coming, my mother raised me right, but I remember them only occasionally and only in the apartments I stayed in for two years or more.

I'm not much one for dusting here in Dallas, either, but here it's not for lack of accumulationit's just impossible to keep up. Here, you can dust every week and still write you name on the dresser top just as often. Here I could keep my grocery list in finger-wide script on the coffee table. Here I dust everything before visitors arrive for a long weekend, and a new layer has settled before they've even packed to go home. You'd think there'd be a film on the windows. You'd think you'd feel it in the air. But instead it is like waking up after a snowstorm, as if the layer over everything was pushed up through the ground itself.

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