On Nesting and Steam Vacs

The last month has been a noteworthy one in my life. On paper, little of excitement has occurred. No major trips were planned. No electrifying nights out or late dinners debating politics over copious bottles of wine. I have gone to work, toiled in my job and then returned home to my family. In regards to exciting, note-worthy personal essays, my life was not generating the variables necessary to craft such pieces.

Yet, it has been one of the most tranquil periods in my life.

Granted, my 21-year-old self would sneer at the individual I have become. I imagine this younger doppelgänger would have many questions for my aged self: How can your ideal Friday night be sitting on the couch watching stupid Van Damme movies? In an election like this one, how can you idly sit at home while political events in your neighborhood are shaping the future? How can you be so contentedly stationary?

I would answer quite confidently: this just feels right. Mind you, I might have some questions of my own for 21-year-old Roland, but those are for another day.

I have been married for a few years, stable in my career, and the father of young children. If I were to ask any of my students, they would likely say those benchmarks are clear exemplars of middle age. I never felt those elements made me “old,” but a recent purchase to Wal-Mart cemented my current place in middle age.

I bought a steam vac and found myself legitimately excited to do so.

My daughter is loud and lovely, but as toddlers are prone to be, she is astoundingly untidy. We attempt to segregate her eating to the kitchen, but she finds a way to bring it with her all over the house. She knows not a couch she didn’t see an opportunity for food-based artistic alteration. Thus, our house has transformed from a clean and hip domicile to a toy-tattered baby canvas.

Sharing a space with my daughter I accepted: her approach to cleanliness and order I cannot.

So I carted the family over to the local market to examine steam vacs. We compared their specs as young men do with cars, looking for the device that gave us the utmost power at a price we could afford. Did we need a device that could carry a gallon of water, or was the model with a self warming-module necessary? We settled on a mid-priced vacuum with an extendable brush and happily parted with the 150 dollars.

I hurried home to unbox the device with the same enthusiasm I had when setting up my Sega Genesis in the early 1990s. We got right down to moving furniture to the corners of the house and hurdled into steaming the hell out of those soiled carpets and upholstery. My wife and I smiled mammoth grins as we observed the filth sucked into our new favorite toy.

This event wasn’t resented spring-cleaning: it was the highlight of the week. At that moment, I knew I had turned a page in my life.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Image: “Kitchen Scene” Peter Wtewael (Dutch, Utrecht 1596–1660)

Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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22 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    Hardwood floors and leather furniture are your friend in this.

  2. Damon says:

    Yeah, you’re getting old.

    So what? My girlfiend, who’s 41 was accused of getting old when she didn’t want to stay up past midnight with some of her friends. I laughed since I’m usually in bed, on the weekend, by 10pm.

    But after a few decades you stop caring what other people think you should be doing….and kids do age you and drain your free time…you adjust.

    • Roland Dodds says:

      Agreed. I hoped to preface this in the “so what?” category as I noted it wasn’t the kind of essay I expected to be writing, but here we are.

      Adjustment is the place I find myself.

      • Damon says:

        🙂 Enjoy your kids. They apparently grow up fast.

        People often discount the value of “doing nothing”. There is something recharging in not doing anything. It’s not as good as hiking to the top of Angle’s Landing, but it’s also cheaper. And idleness can be refreshing and recharging.

        • Roland Dodds says:

          @damon Yep, at this point, our adventures during the weekend revolve around going to the park or the beach and then cooking a nice meal at home while watching dumb movies. I can’t tell you how nice it is after working 10-12 hours a day and commuting in the Bay Area.

          It also makes me very thankful to be in Sonoma County. It’s a beautiful place with many spots to bring young ones (while also grabbing a beer). I am thankful for that.

  3. Doctor Jay says:

    It’s not your age that’s changed you, it’s the three-year-old.

  4. fillyjonk says:

    I don’t have any children but I think I was *born* middle-aged. I haven’t voluntarily stayed up past 11 pm in….gosh, more than 15 years now.

    I own a steam vac but haven’t used it in a long time because it’s kind of effortful to get out and set up and it just seems easier to fill a bucket with hot water and soap and get down on my hands and knees and scrub.

    • Burt Likko says:

      That’s a sign that you aren’t really middle-aged yet, @fillyjonk . When you begin to prefer the bother and hassle of setting up the steam vac to the pain in your knees after a morning of cleaning, then you’ll have finally become One Of Us.

    • Roland Dodds says:

      I feel you @fillyjonk. We should get a drink (assuming it is at 6pm and costs about 4 dollars).

  5. Chip Daniels says:

    I am on the other side of this arc.
    We became empty nesters when Kim’s daughter moved away to college, and combined with the recent move to the city, we are enjoying, savoring really, our progression into middle age.

    Its common to hear people focus on what is lost as we age, but not as common is to hear what we gain. When I think back to my younger self, I see vitality and wonder but also ignorance and insecurity.

    I brought my son, who is now 26, to intern with me at work. As much as I miss that little boy he used to be, its a special delight to work side by side with the fine young man he has become.

    There is an art to life, I think, in finding the joy and fulfillment that comes along with each phase, savoring it while it lasts, then welcoming the next one.

    • Burt Likko says:

      …a special delight to work side by side with the fine young man he has become.

      You broke my heart a little bit when I read that — in a very good way. I’m tremendously happy for both you and your son.

    • Roland Dodds says:

      Thanks @chip-daniels, I always enjoy your perspective in the comments section. Would love to hear about your life working with your adult son!

  6. Kazzy says:

    Welcome to the club!

    I’m at the point where, if I actually make it to a bachelor party, I’m more excited for a quiet plane ride spent reading than all the debauchery.

  7. Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to lead it,
    But there comes a day when your eyes are all right but your arm
    isn’t long enough to hold the telephone book where you can read it,
    — Ogden Nash

  8. LeeEsq says:

    Roland, do you also contribute to Harry’s Place?

    • Roland Dodds says:

      Hey @leeesq, I do. I also noticed a few weeks back that you comment there as well. OT is still my home for longer essays and exploring ideas, but HP has been a fun romp during this election.

      I can also attest to the quality of the OT comment section when compared to HP. We have something special here that I hope never goes away.

      • LeeEsq says:

        Harry’s Place is a unique blog because the posters are center-left but many of the commentariat tend towards the right.