Seth Brown: Visit from mother forces sweeping


NORTH ADAMS -- I know that usually "dust to dust" is preceded by the phrase "ashes to ashes," but since I allow neither smoking nor the cremation of dead bodies in my house, we tend to have a lot more dust than ashes.

And while I’m not necessarily a huge fan of dust, I’m even less of a fan of constantly cleaning up all the dust in the house only to make more, which seems like a crime, or possibly a punishment. Or maybe both, as was once theorized by Fyodor "Dusty" Yevsky.

But if necessity is the mother of invention, then mothers are the necessity of cleaning. I discovered this last weekend, when my own mother was slated to visit my house and I realized I was due for some spring cleaning, especially since I couldn’t remember really doing much of the sort since the last spring cleaning which was definitely not this year. It’s too cold to open doors and windows in winter, so there’s no way to sweep stuff out of the house, which is why everyone just hibernates and watches Netflix, where by "everyone" I mean "bears with Internet connections," which would incidentally be a great topic for an original series.

My point is, I hadn’t really cleaned the house in a while. Some people might say that I’m allergic to cleaning. This is not quite correct, since if anything I get a bit sick from the dust that ends up kicked up by the cleaning, but the result is still that I don’t clean very often. The way I prefer to describe my condition is "Elmer Fudd Insomnia:" I’m not good at sweeping.

Still, sweeping is what needed to be done, and I was just the guy to do it. In spite of the fact that sweeping up may not be much more than a semi-annual occurrence for me, I own two brooms. No, I don’t sweep ambidextrously. But I have a rectangular-bottomed broom for pushing crumbs around the floor, and then I have a straw broom that I use for drinking milkshakes.

The straw broom hasn’t really changed at all since the 1800s, which is a marvel in and of itself. The horse and buggy has been replaced by the automobile, going to the playhouse has been replaced by television, and salons of enlightened discourse have been replaced by the YouTube comment section. But the straw broom has remained the same.

Perhaps this is because it functions surprisingly well at its job. I can look at a rug in my room and not see any obvious dust on it, but then after sweeping it thoroughly with the straw broom, I notice that standing next to me is a small terrier composed entirely of dust. I can tell it apart from the neighborhood dogs because it is blessedly quiet, and also because I can put it in the trash without receiving a stern letter from the ASPCA.

Not that my friends online would stand for cruelty to animals either; even the ones I’ve never met in person like Ursa42 seem very big on animal rights, and worry about the honey shortage from the disappearing bees. I’m content to make the dust disappear. And I realize that my house is probably still a mess, but I think that gives it character. After all, as a leonine contemporary of Dusty’s once said:

"All clean houses are alike; each unclean house is unclean in its own way."

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and would find winter without Internet unbearable. His website is


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