Aid for Me First


Anne Michael

Cleaning is a kind of recreation for me. I don’t need a special wardrobe or equipment, and I am not impeded by anything other than a power failure. I like it. I find cleaning soothing for those days and times when I am stressed, overly tired or just plain grumpy. Today, I am simply having a bad case of the grumps, although I like to call it “writer’s block,” which sounds ever so much better. I have a project due, a column deadline coming up, a couple of letters to write. Yet with all that, nothing comes forth. And I’ve been like this for two days. I haven’t even been successful in getting anyone engaged in a lively discussion.

Being resourceful, I took matters into my own hands and forced a cure. I cleaned cabinets, getting rid of boxes of crackers that have been open since Halloween, and cereal that my lovely spouse saved because there was too much for his conscience to toss but not enough for a bowl of cereal. Every surface was enthusiastically scrubbed. The dogs, safely out of the way, watched me warily from their places beneath the coffee table. And now that the dishes are done, the counters cleaned, the floor swept and washed my world feels like a much happier place.

I am the Windex Queen. Early in my marriage, my husband’s grandmother was so intrigued with my love affair with the stuff she actually gave me spray cans of the window cleaner one Christmas. Most daughters-in-law would have been insulted; I was utterly delighted. For decades, my family has joked that if anyone stands still too long, they are liable to get spritzed with the stuff. My oldest son actually tried it on his teeth when he was very young in the hopes that they would get shiny like a window so that no one could see any dirt. He was quite adventurous, trying his mother’s two favorite household cleaning products even if he had to climb a cabinet to reach them. The other was Mr. Clean. He tried that after his older sister joked that I probably took a bath in it after one of my cleaning jags. If it worked for bathing, he figured, it would be great for teeth. It’s actually a wonder he survived his childhood, and that he still has teeth. Thank goodness for first aid books.

Do you have a first aid book on your bookshelf? The one on my shelf is pretty decrepit looking. Its official title is the First Aid Handbook (fourth edition) issued by the American National Red Cross. It was printed in 1971. I remember when the pages used to be white. Now they are edging toward sepia. I was so proud of myself for having purchased it when I was expecting my first child. Even though I’ve not had to use it in a great many years I cannot bring myself to throw it away or even purchase a newer version. It has such wonderful memories attached to it as I learned to deal with skinned knees, puncture wounds brought on by sword fights with pencils, poison ivy, broken wrists and even eraser burns as my youngest daughter tried to rid herself of freckles. There were disaster drills when each of my children became scouts and gales of giggles when the practice of wrapping ankles, wrists and knees turned into “the mummy meets the invisible man” and the mayhem that ensued.

On a lark, I pulled the book off the shelf to see if there is a cure for the grumps. I knew there wouldn’t be, but it was a fun trip down memory lane, seeing the small sticky finger prints and blood-speckled pages from one or all of the kids searching for their own cures for whatever was ailing them as they strove for independence.  

One of the things I love about cleaning is that when I’m all done I can see things that I’ve accomplished behind me, and the level of Windex in my bottle is ever lower. It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction. Looking at my little green First Aid Handbook gives me that same kind of sense of satisfaction I have when I look back and realize that I managed to raise four wild (and interesting) kids into four very nice adults with happy families of their own. It really is hard to maintain a case of the grumpies in the face of all that.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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