Before my Grandmother used to head out of the house, when she knew she wouldn’t be back for a while, she used to go into every room and check that the lights were out. She’d go into the kitchen and touch every knob on the stove and oven and say Off, off, off,off. She’d make sure the faucets were not dripping, jiggled the toilet handles, and shut the dog in the kitchen. I’m not exactly sure if she did this for my benefit, but if she did, it missed the mark. I never really mastered the usefulness of her actions, only the obsessiveness. Before I leave the house in the morning, I am usually running around in circles looking for keys or phone or shoes, making sandwiches, putting dishes in the sink, sometimes even sweeping, while the dogs stand at the top of the stairs, their heads tilted, waiting for me to say Let’s go.
Who sweeps the floor on their way out the door?
The reason I do this, the reason I bulldoze everything from the front of the house to the back (sometimes picking up a pile of jackets and bags and heaving them into the hallway) is that I want things to look neat when I first walk into the house when I come home at night. I want my eyes to rest on something uncluttered and calming when I first walk through the door. It matters less that the iron is on, or the oven, or that the dogs have eaten the crotch of Harry’s underwear he left on the floor, as long as the empty table, the chairs tucked in and the vase of flowers are the first thing I see when I come home at the end of the day.