21 Aug 2014
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Death by Chair Legs

Who knew?

Death by Chair Legs

Did you know you are supposed to clean the legs of your wooden chairs? You can be honest, no one’s judging you here. Well I didn’t know, until the day I came home from work to find our housekeeper squirting lemon-fresh Pledge on the curvy-carved veneers of my wannabe French Country chairs.

Is this something people do? Sure, if a glob of spaghetti sauce dropped on the chair, I’d give it a swipe, but otherwise it’s safe to say I’ve never given the those chair legs a thought. Seriously, do they even get dirty? I did what I always do when I’m stumped. I called my mother, and sure enough, yes, you should occasionally give attention to the chairs legs. It appears dirt and dust can accumulate there just like anywhere else. Go figure.

This is why I use a professional.


Celia started cleaning our house when we first moved to Massachusetts ten years ago and the boys were only two years old. My children adored her because she would leave a chocolate on their beds amongst the pile of stuffed animals she’d artfully arrange in adorable poses. She taught them words in Portugese like soap, and water, and tell-your-mother-to-pick-up-a-broom-once-in-a-while. I once found her teaching them how to use the vacuum, probably in the hopes they would eventually teach me.

I adored Celia because she cleaned my house. And she came back every Wednesday no matter how bad it got. She also crafted paper roses out of our toilet paper and folded geometrical designs into the top layers of our Kleenex.

I know, right?

Ten years and later, Celia and her crew have gotten to know us very well. Every week we leave them a list of things we’ve lost … like my wedding ring, my husband’s wedding ring, our only remaining set of car keys, our only remaining set of house keys, and even our hamster, the aptly named Houdini. Sure enough, they’d find everything and line them neatly on the kitchen table. I can’t tell you how much I rely on Celia and her crew, and they always deliver. Sometimes too well.

I hang decorative ceramic dishes on the walls of my kitchen and dining room. It never occurred to me I should clean these plates, which, let me stress, never get used. They just hang there. If a plop of spaghetti sauce were to land on one of these plates, (which in my house is a distinct possibility), I would clean it. I might not take the plate down, but I would definitely wipe all the red off. Otherwise, the plates stay up on the wall, untouched, until one of the kids inevitably throws some item that should never be thrown inside a house and the plate falls and shatters into a million pieces.

So imagine my surprise when I came home and saw that Celia had taken all the plates down and washed them. They were, admittedly, very bright and shiny, and some of them were even different colors than they were that morning. That familiar feeling of despair came over me. So we're supposed to clean these too?!

I called my mom. By this point, I could easily visualize her shaking her head dismayingly.

"Yes, dear, of course you need to wash those plates."

"But they don’t DO anything. They just sit there."

"It doesn’t matter, they still get dusty and grimy."

Darn. I was beginning to see a trend here, and this trend—like all awful trends tend to do—continued.

One day I came home to find the silk curtains from our dining room removed and placed neatly into plastic bags. The cotton curtains from our sunroom had all been taken down, washed and dried. Celia, because she knows me all too well, had set up the ironing board and placed the folded curtains on top of it, along with the iron, in a not-too-subtle hint as to what my role in this crazy escapade was to be.

Scott gleefully came round the bend, his eyes bright with joy at what he was about to tell me. “Celia says you need to have the dining room curtains dry cleaned and that you have to iron the sunroom curtains.”

 “Dry-clean?” I asked stupefied. “Iron? I don’t understand.”

 “Celia says they need to be cleaned.”

“The curtains?”


“But why?” I whined. “Is there spaghetti sauce on them?”

My husband merely shrugged.

“Clean.” I rolled the word on my tongue. “The curtains.”

“Yes,” said my husband, a cheerful broken record. “And iron those other ones.”

I stared in abject horror at the sixteen curtain panels piled on the ironing board and did the only rational thing I could think of.

I called my mom.

“Come on, Mom,” I literally cried. “This can’t be something people actually do?”

“Yes, dear,” she patiently confirmed. “Why, your sister-in-law and her mother get together every spring to clean all the curtains in the house. It’s something they do.”


So by this point I’m really starting to worry about things I don’t know. I don’t mean things I don’t know like trigonometry or geometry or any “ometry” for that matter. I mean things I don’t know, that I don’t even KNOW I don’t know.

Like washing the legs of chairs, decorative plates, and curtains.

I can just see the four of us now, suffering from a rare form of lung disease brought about by a no-good sneaky bacteria that grows exclusively on chair leg dust, or on ceramic plate grime, or on whatever it is that makes a perfectly normal looking curtain need cleaning. The doctors would all be scrambling to find an antibiotic to save our lives but would be stumped as to the exact course of action. They’d congregate in a circle in the corner of the hospital corridor whispering how no one’s ever gotten this particular strain of disease before. After all, who doesn’t clean their chair legs?

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