Cleaning the Nest: Household Hints Definitely Not from Heloise

Tidying the Nest

Okay, Kaitlyn, listen up. For Grandmother is about to pen a missive sort of tome that will set you straight about all things dusting, cleaning, scouring, wiping, shining and waxing.

This is not the stuff of Ladies Home Journal and indeed, at times, I may eschew those products so hyped in their rotogravure from their advertisers.

It is the words of one woman who is pretty ordinary in terms of cleanliness and housekeeping ability. Most of my "nests" were also of the most ordinary variety attracting the most ordinary of types of dust and dirt. As with every other woman on the planet, it was, through four husbands, my job to cleanse the nest. If I wasn't actually cleansing the nest I was in charge of getting spouse to help cleanse it by giving him specific instructions and pointing out the obvious to his oblivious masculine eyes.

Thus it will be with you sweet Granddaughter and right here Grandmother does you a favor by not misleading you. For some time during Grandmother's life time there was a massive feminine revolution that allegedly removed the responsibility of the more mundane chores of life from the shoulders of the female soldiers and placed at least half of it on her male partner.

Only it didn't turn out that way, Kaitlyn Mae, this as Grandmother admits to having once been a participant in that feminine revolution that leaves her in solid middle-age return to how it always was and always will be.

It was the Wren that convinced me. Or perhaps the Starling, that ugliest and most maligned of the yard birds. Then again the Robin gives me pause, that architect of the most intricate nests on the planet.

In none of the above bird cases, does the male ever participate in the actual design and maintenance of the nest structure although he does labor by bringing in various twigs and yard debris to the head architect, which would be his female mate.

A male Wren will throw a couple of twigs anywhere and everywhere in his self-designated territory. Once he lures an interested female with his fine song, he will show her all of his "nests" with the pride of a conquering male.

She, of course, begins to methodically toss the ugly and inappropriate twigs all about, cursing him in bird talk while spitting his choices of building materials to the ground in disdain. This after completely dismissing many of his fine "nests" that were totally inappropriate in terms of location, exposure and danger from prey.

Males can't handle this sort of thing, Kaitlyn, and the female wren knows it.

As does the Starling of my memory. They were a handsome pair of Starlings as those trashy birds go. Both male and female were busy in the early spring, building a massive twig affair high in the oak tree adjacent to my porch. The male would fly a piece of building material up to the female. The female was distracted and busy designing the framing for her precious nursery and had no time for kindness to her mate.

Starlings are noisy birds and their chatter confused me. First I would notice a piece of tin foil drift down from high in the tree. Then the male Starling would descend, retrieve the foil piece and fly it right back up high in the tree. Soon that same piece of foil, it looked to be like a piece of a cigarette pack, would drift back down. Soon again, the male Starling would come back and retrieve it.

This saga continued for some time until I figured out that the silly male Starling was bringing this to his mate to add to the nest design and SHE was giving him her opinion of the design by tossing it out into the great beyond.

That female Starling was not going to have cigarette pack foil built into her nest design and I certainly understood. Your Grandfather, Kaitlyn, once wanted to paint our living room dark blue and affix shiny paper stars to the ceiling.

Of course it is the female who must maintain some sort of sanity in such things and of course I tossed that man's shiny paper stars along with the dark blue paint right out the window.

A Robin's nest is a bit more of a complicated affair. These birds use mud to mold straw and other soft material into a cup-type nest designed to nestle into odd spots like rain gutters and hanging plant pots. It was just such a rain gutter spout nest that allowed me to view the Robin action closely.

The male Robin would bring bits of straw and dried grass to his mate. He would also bring gobs of mud. The female would take the straw and mud and by using her breast, go round and round until that nest became the proper Robin nest shape when the mud dried and molded it firm.

Although the female Robin too had issues with her mate's design choices and throughout this entire nest building process pieces of rejected straw and strange bits of string would come falling down from the rain gutter, rejections by the female Robin of the building offerings of her mate.

The area below that Robin nest was quite messy with the rejections, something that was my job to tidy up as my husband would never even notice such a thing.

Which is the whole point of this exercise, Kaitlyn Mae. Grandmother thinks you should sidestep all the male/female nonsense that I plowed through in my earlier years and accept that the female of the species is in charge of the nest. Period.

Now I've done spent so much space on my bird stories that I will have to resort to Part 2 of this missive to detail Grandmother's method to keeping a tidy nest, how to avoid dirt to begin with, what cleaning products are useless, which ones are the most valuable.

It's an intriguing observation, Kaitlyn, and if you trust Grandmother at all you will accept that only your female self has sensibilities that will be offended by clutter, dirt and nasty smells. The love of your life can have a number of male blind spots but he will have blind spots, Kaitlyn, from the very act of being a man.

However, there is a way to get your mate to help out handily come time to clean the nest, Kaitlyn, and Grandmother will offer these hints as well. In time, if you're lucky, your chosen love will come to actually prefer a clean and neat abode, get used to it a certain way, as it were.

For now and until Part 2, Kaitlyn Mae, accept the lesson of the birds and know that as the female generally raises the young it is the female who knows intuitively what the young need.

Don't let your husband put cigarette foil paper on your walls is what I'm saying here, Kaitlyn.

For Part 2 of this missive click here

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