Funny the World...


The pied-a-terre she keeps in Rome includes a gigolo to press
her pants, palpate her remote control, and titivate her terrazzo.

-- Karen Elizabeth Gordon, "The Disheveled Dictionary."

April 16, 2000

OK. Let's have a show of hands. Who wouldn't mind having a gigolo come and titivate your terrazzo? Despite what you may think, "titivate," word maven Martha Barnette tells me, is apparently "a combination of 'tidy' and some word like 'elevate,' 'cultivate,' or 'renovate.'" Obviously we could use a little titivating around here.

Try as I might (and I admit to not trying very hard), the word "tidy" is not in my soul. I am the Aquarian daughter of a Virgo mother and what a trial I must have been to her. She was ironing towels and diapers and I was lucky if I remembered to close a drawer completely. Despite our basic housekeeping incompatibility, we have been friends throughout my life, though it must be difficult for her to trip over newspapers on the floor, or brush dog hair off her clothes when she gets up off the couch during a visit here.

It's not that I'm incapable of being tidy--or even fastidious. But it's a matter of priorities. I can spend 3 hours getting a web page to look just right, by changing this word or that word or moving things a pixel or two here and there, while the dishes pile up in the sink and laundry remains unfolded on the bed. I have magic powers. I can make things disappear. Well, in my mind's eye, that is. I remember one of the kids once asked me where his red sock was. Without hesitation I replied "It's under the chair in the living room. It's been there for a week." On some level I knew the sock was there--and how long it had been there, but for the week I had walked past it without it bothering me enough to pick it up.

I also suffer from what has come to be called "flat surface syndrome." A flat surface is a place where you put stuff. That's why there is no mantle over our fireplace. When we had this house built, we realized that if we had a mantle, it would ultimately become the home for stuffed animals, half-read books, empty glasses, scraps of paper and miscellaneous "stuff."

I build monuments to "stuff." Like a house of cards, each layer is precariously balanced on the one underneath it (the stuff monument here on my desk invariably begins with a tissue box and goes up from there. It topples often.). I have an entire island devoted to stuff. It started when the kids grew up and moved away, thus leaving a large (22 feet long) bedroom unused. It was the obvious place to put unwanted stuff. (How many broken vacuum cleaners does one need anyway?) The stuff island includes luggage, camping equipment, games, boxes of clothes, and God only knows what else. We divided the room in two, front half for stuff, back half for the two beds, in case a kid came home and needed a place to sleep. The two halves are separated by a low bookcase and between the bookcase and the closet there is the "stuff island." For awhile there it became a "stuff penninsula," as the collection got closer and closer to the bookcase.

When Paul died last year, my friend Lynn flew in from Texas. She didn't spend long hours hugging and crying (though she did that too), but she took it upon herself to clean up. She turned the stuff peninsula into a very small stuff island. She took no prisoners and she filled the back of a pickup truck with stuff. Then she moved into the kitchen. She found the counter (I knew it had to be somewhere under all that stuff), and if I hadn't completely panicked, I fully expect that she would have found my desktop too. I loved her for it.

But the problem with cleaning up, if you tend to build monuments to stuff, is that you can never again find anything. Ask me where the receipt for groceries I bought six months ago is and I'll know in which pile to look for it. Clean it up, and you've lost all hope of ever finding anything again.

For that reason, if a gigolo showed up at my door and offered to titivate my terrazzo, I'd have to turn him away. I have my priorities.

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created 4/16/00 by Bev Sykes