Have you ever had something really good happen to you…and not have the slightest clue how to handle it?
Wife Unit and I are slobs. There’s no getting around it. My last bachelor apartment before I got married didn’t get nicknamed the Dumpster of Love for nothing. (As contrasted to our poorly-insulated apartment in Richmond, which I dubbed the Refrigerator of Love for those bracing winter mornings where it was 45 degrees in the closet, or our current place, the Landfill of Love.) Then add on top of our natural slob tendencies, the fact that she’s been dealing with depression for over a year, and that I work full-time and am not in great physical condition and am just lazy in general, and…yeah. We don’t have a lot of people over. Maintenance notices tend to cause us much heartburn and frantic cleaning to get certain rooms up to a minimum oh-Jesus-please-don’t-evict-us standard.
So Wife Unit has a good Livejournal friend that lives nearby, Ursula. Urs, a few weeks back, told us that she wanted to do something nice for us…she was going to get a couple of people together from her church and do some apartment cleaning for us. If you saw what our place looked like, you’d realize that even the offer, much less the execution of it, is grounds for beatification. We took her up on it, and the time was set…last Saturday.
Saturday morning, Urs rolled in, followed by her Sunday school small group leader, Anthony. Wife Unit had made sure that suitable snacks and drinks were laid up and ready, and at that point, we left and gave them free rein over the entirety of the Landfill of Love, while we headed to the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science up on the other side of Durham. We proceeded to have a wonderful morning. The Museum impressed the hell out of me; it’s incredibly kid-friendly, with interesting indoor exhibits, and an outdoor climate-controlled butterfly house. But the heat was brutal, and by 12:30, we were gassed, even after a half-hour lunch in the air conditioning.
We called Urs…and were told that the cleaning crew (now swollen to four people) wasn’t done yet. But, Anthony immediately said, “oh, no problem, you can go to my house, I live nearby.” And he called his wife, and made it so. Thus it was that a half-hour later (after a sweaty 100-degree blast-furnace ride in my wife’s car, Stubby, with no air conditioning) we pulled up beside Anthony’s house and met his wife and their two cute kids, ages 5 and 2 1/2.
Nublet needed a nap, and without hesitation the wife insisted we put her to bed in their daughter’s room. We retired downstairs to sit, watching Ax Men on the History Channel and trying to get our core temperature back down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 98.6 F. Close on 3 o’clock, she came into the room, said, “I have to take the kids to a birthday party, if you leave before I do, just lock the back door. Bye!” And left.
Leaving two total strangers…in her house. Alone.
These days, that in and of itself is stunning, that someone we’d never met before would trust us to hang out in their house alone. But the day wasn’t yet done, and things were about to get even more mind-blowing.
Urs called about 3:45 and said they were done. So we packed up and drove back over…and got the shock of our lives.
The place was clean. No, not just clean. It was move-out clean, and veteran renters know what I’m talking about. Both bathrooms and the kitchen had been scrubbed to a fare-the-well. All the carpets were completely vacuumed. Every single toy had been picked up out of the floor. The kitchen sparkled, with a load of clean dishes in the dishwasher and everything else loaded into the cabinets.
But wait, there’s more.
Our second bedroom has always been our “computer room,” while Nublet slept in our room. No more. They completely cleaned all the detritus out of that room, broke down our computers, and moved them and the tables they sat on into our bedroom, placing them perfectly for us to hook them back up later. Then they took the bed we’d bought Nublet months ago but hadn’t had time or space to set up, and set it up. They bought storage containers and bins and put away all her toys. They turned that room from the epicenter of a geek slobquake into a nice room for a two-and-a-half-year-old girl. They even got more storage bins and cleaned out the side alcove near the apartment entrance, the one that Avery had briefly turned into a beading nook before it got taken over by boxes.
We just stood there, dumbfounded. I kept looking around for the TLC cameras, because surely we’d walked into some home makeover show, right? The only way we could tell it was the same apartment we’d left eight hours earlier was that the stains on the carpet were still in the same place, and yes, that was still our ugly sofa…only now, we could see all of it.
Four people busted their ever-loving asses for eight hours on a 100-degree day, to do something nice for people that they barely knew, or had never met. They gave up a Saturday with their own families to work like dogs for total strangers.
I’ll admit it. After Urs left, I cried a little. Cried because (a) I’m not used to having people do something this nice for us, ever; and (b) it makes me examine myself, and I’m not sure I like everything I see.
What we got on Saturday goes far, far beyond a clean apartment. There’s a lesson in it. I just hope I’m smart enough to learn it…and remember.
And to Ursula, Anthony, and their friends: Thank you. Words can’t express how much this meant to us.
For a lot of different reasons.