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Our hills bask in warm sunshine today as we get a foretaste of lovely spring weather. Blue skies stretch above us with nary cloud to mar the azure surface. Plump robins (yes, the robins are back!) stroll across the yard as the temperature gets warmer and warmer; their pert little heads cocked to one side as they listen intently for the earthworm to reveal its whereabouts. Yellow forsythia is blooming, and fat buds appear on the lilac bush. Songbirds begin their morning melody at dawn, awakening us with their song of cheer. Spring is coming, and it is so welcome!

Weather like this gives me the urge to grab the mop bucket and a scrub brush, and give the house a genuine good cleaning. (I said the “urge”—I didn’t say that I’d do it!) A fanatic housekeeper I am not—more the comfortable type. I was reading a book on parrots recently, and one of the quotes in it was “if having a spotless house is important to you, then you are not the type to consider having a parrot.” As I read it to Criss, he remarked, “Well, you certainly do qualify for a parrot as a pet!” But even an indifferent housekeeper should be inspired by this weather to scrub something.”

I wish I knew how to plan my spring cleaning to really do it effectively. I am a sucker for every new-fangled product on the market. I get this feeling that I will find the miracle cleaner that can be sprayed on the floor, ceiling and walls, so it will roll up the dirt in a big ball and dispose of itself in the trash can. All a company has to do is bring out a new product, call it some name like “Purge!” or “Attack!” and I will buy it. The girls laughed at me last year for buying a high priced product with the space age name of “X-Something or Other” to clean the shower stall. It was supposed to be death on mold and mildew, and do you know what it was? A weak solution of household bleach, which I had always used to scrub the shower anyway.

You’d think I’d learn, but a few weeks ago I fell for it again—a product designed for a quick clean-up of tough spots. Yes, it was 2% household bleach again, with 98% inert ingredients. I figure I’m paying around ten dollars a gallon for inert ingredients. It did have an interesting name, though—something like “Grab!” I wonder why they don’t tell it like it really is, and name their products in a more realistic way—such as “Drudge!” or “Scum!” or even “Elbow-Grease!” I’ve noticed that elbow grease is the main ingredient in all cleaners, and that has to be applied vigorously. Probably most anything would work, if you scrubbed hard enough.

I always liked to hear Mom tell of spring housecleaning down on Big Laurel Creek when she was a girl. The doors and windows would be thrown wide open to let the sunshine in, and the pine floor scrubbed white with lye water. They would take the split bottom kitchen chairs down in the creek, and wade out with them in the water, where they would thoroughly scrub them with fine sand. After they were rinsed clean, they would be lined up on the bank to dry in the sun. The heat from the sunshine would draw the split bottoms up nice and tight once more. The kitchen walls and ceilings would be re-papered with fresh newspapers, while the downstairs bedrooms were papered in “real” wallpaper with a dark green, flowered pattern.

Windows were cleaned with Bon-Ami, a paste that dried and was wiped clean with a soft cloth. Their parlor was called the “back room” and lace curtains hung at the small-paned windows. Dark green window blinds were drawn for privacy, and the ceilings were made of pine. This room was mainly used for special company, and for “courting.”

Grandpa Hooge made a broom of white oak splints, called a “besom,” and it was used to scrub the floors and sweep the yard—a job that was performed every Saturday. The yard was totally innocent of grass; tromped smooth by a multitude of bare feet. It made an ideal place to play marbles, and draw “babies in the sand.” Mom’s baby brother, Gene, would tie an old metal washpan on a string, fill it with rocks, and drag it around the yard. He called it his “Dragee” and more often than not he would take a swoop and wipe out the “babies in the sand.” Then the war was on!

When the floors were dry, the sparkling clean kitchen chairs were brought back inside, and sometimes a new oilcloth would grace the kitchen table. The crowning touch, however, was done on the outside of the house. It was Jenny Lind affair, as most houses were in that day, and thin strips of wood would cover the cracks between the boards.

Evening would bring the family inside, where a row of little towheads sat around the supper table. The lamplight shone on the clean windows, and reflected in the bright eyes of the children as they bowed their heads when Grandpa asked the blessing. He prayed fervently, “Our Heavenly Father, thank You for these and all the other many manifestations of Thy goodness toward us. Pardon our wrongs, and give us the grace to live right. And finally, save us for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

Blessed is the family whose head is the father, and the mother finds her place as “Keeper of the Hearth” and makes the home a sanctuary from the world. Blessed are the children who honor their mother and father; are good and obedient. And most of all, blessed is the family where God is the supreme head of all, and overshadows the home with His love and protection.

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!
By John Howard Payne

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer