What did I do this summer? Plenty.

Maybe I was a reporter facing deadlines for too long. Maybe it was that “A” I got on a term paper completed 24 hours before it was due. Maybe it’s my way of balancing out the completely ambition-free couch-tater that lurks in me, but it appears I do my best work as the clock is ticking its final minutes.
During the eight weeks that the schools close, I relish every minute of my unscheduled hours, stretching out on my bed either reading a novel or napping. I’ve done small projects here and there, but largely, as the time draws to a close, I have little to show for my free time except a list of authors read and a subscription to HBO.
I didn’t get the upstairs bathroom sanded and painted. I didn’t get the sticky kitchen cupboards scrubbed. I didn’t get the windows washed. I didn’t even throw my annual barbecue that forces me to clean up the winter detritus in the backyard.
And now it’s almost zero hour. If I don’t produce something notable soon, it will have to wait until Thanksgiving. I knew what I had to do — it was time to clean the garage. I don’t know the state of your garage on any given day, but ours will stop you in your tracks.
I have known people whose garage floors were cleaner than my kitchen. I have seen meticulously organized, labeled garages and I have even seen garages in which you can park a car. And then there’s mine.
For starters, we are the last remaining souls in California with a manual garage door. The automatic door opener was broken when we moved in and remains so to this day. I have come to the conclusion that it allows my husband, the frustrated farm boy, to imagine it’s actually a barn. He feared an electric garage door might come down and squish one of our children when they were little. I believe now he sees it as his contribution to my need for an upper body workout.
It was clearly time to clean out that sad, overcrowded, spider-webbed, dust-filled space that hides, but not well, behind that old door. I try to round up some young strong bodies to assist, but the enthusiasm is all mine.
I was up at the crack of noon, busily dragging bikes, boxes, camping equipment, old furniture, trashcans, tools, beach gear and assorted garden and auto supplies out of the dark recesses until, lo and behold, you could see the floor.
While I energetically pushed, pulled and lifted, my helpers tended to suddenly discover some amazing treasure — old snorkeling gear, a photo album or that tire pump they had been looking for that required several minutes of discussion and investigation.
My son stepped bravely up to man the electric leaf blower, serving up a cloud of filth and dust. Heaven forfend he should have had to actually push a broom. How dirty was it? Picture Oklahoma during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Both he and his sister found it the height of hilarity to aim a cloud of cobwebs, sawdust and dead insects at me anytime I came within firing range. It added the perfect accessories to my stunningly sweaty, grubby look for the day.
Beaten down though it may be, there remains a spark of the neat freak in me that just wanted to stand and stare at the clean, bare garage floor. It was a thing of beauty that we swiftly camouflaged it by putting back most of the really terrific junk. I was still content.
By day’s end, my back had started to spasm. I knew I had adequately accomplished something when I could barely sit up the next morning. There is nothing like pain to assure you of a job well done. Go ahead. Ask me what I did this summer. If I doze off, just nudge me — gently.

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