My husband would have liked Hattie Wyatt Caraway. When she walked into the Senate chambers as the first woman elected to serve a full term, her first words were, “The windows need washing.” Yesterday, on a sunny September morning, my husband decided we should bring the outside in by doing a major window cleaning, a once or twice a year ritual which is not without some inner turmoil on my part. That’s because my husband and I are from two different schools, he from the school of perfection, and I from the school of good enough. The ugly clash of these two philosophies is nowhere more apparent than when we are cleaning windows.
The scenario goes something like this: I stand on the outside, he on the inside, or vice versa, and we clean our respective window panes. When I think mine look good enough, he points to a spot, indicating I’ve obviously missed something on my side. I spray and wipe again. He points to another spot. I say, “That’s on your side.” He looks at me dubiously, tries to wipe the smudge away with no results, and with what I perceive to be a hint of triumph in his voice, says, “No, it’s definitely on your side.” So I spray and wipe again.
We have old windows, not the newer “tilt in to clean” type. We have the kind that have screens and storm windows all on separate tracks that don’t slide anymore. You have to take them apart so you can reach all the surfaces, and good luck putting them back together again.
After the third hour of cleaning, every spot my husband points to begins to feel like a flaw in my character he is pointing out. This spot is your disorganization, this is your forgetfulness, this is your excessive anxiety (Hmmm….wonder where that came from?). I begin pointing out imaginary spots from my side, just to even out the playing field. It drives him mad trying to get the window perfect when it already is.
Finally, after four hours of hard labor (mind you, we only did the downstairs, a total of seven windows since we live in a brick townhome with no side windows), my husband announces we are done (I was done hours before that). He stands back and admires our big kitchen window, the last one we did.
“Wait! I see a streak right there,” he says, pointing to a place impossible to reach without disassembling the window again. Before I can say my usual, “It’s good enough,” he steps back and shrugs. “That’s life,” he says. The longer he’s married to me, the more hope I hold out for him.