Remember that week of false spring back in January, when the afternoon temperatures were high and the sun was bright and hot? The sunny weather grabbed me by the arm and threw me into a spring cleaning froth.
First, I tidied the linen closet, then — zero to 80. I borrowed a steamer mop. I bought a can of wax stripper and a hand scrubber. Two days later, I had a shine on my kitchen floor so intense I had to squint to find my way to the refrigerator.
Confession: It wasn’t the weather that inspired my cleaning. It was my cat, Ellie.
“Fleas,” the veterinarian diagnosed cheerfully.
Actually, she sang it out: “Flee-ees.” Two syllables, which translated to, “Fleas again.”
This wasn’t our regular vet; she was a substitute who happened to be an expert on fleas and cats. A quick study of Ellie’s medical records showed repeated clinic visits for a flea allergy.
The substitute vet gave me a tutorial on the life cycle of fleas from eggs to Ellie.
“Your house is probably infested,” she said merrily.
This was a bright Saturday morning, a Saturday full of happy plans.
“Go home,” she told me. “Get yourself fueled up on coffee or wine and start vacuuming. Get your crevice tool and your upholstery attachment and vacuum. Vacuum under all the chair and sofa cushions. Vacuum the bottom of the bed. Vacuum the baseboards. Vacuum ... ” She stopped when she saw my stricken expression.
“I know just how you feel,” she said. “I once had two kids with head lice.”
No, she didn’t know how I felt. She didn’t know that I was thinking, “Crevice tool? Upholstery attachment? I haven’t seen those in years.”
However, anyone who prescribes strong coffee or a bottle of wine is my kind of medical consultant. I did everything she said. On the way home I bought personal fuel, a vacuum (with attachments) and a spray bottle of something to kill flea eggs. Then, I vacuumed like a woman possessed.
I tried to make the best of the flea infestation by turning it into a learning opportunity. However, I found the blood-sucking little vampires too grotesque to study.
All I learned is there are more than 2,000 species of fleas, including special fleas for cats, dogs, human, moorhens, northern rats and Oriental rats. Rabbit fleas can detect when the rabbit is about to give birth and jumps into the procreation itself, producing flea eggs.
I learned that fleas can jump 7 inches high and 13 inches horizontally. I learned that Borax, baking soda and table salt help kill fleas. So does drowning. (That seems laborious, doesn’t it? Drowning one flea at a time?)
Today, Ellie and I are both happier — and cleaner — cats. I admire people who keep their homes, their lawns and their cars spotless. I am in worshipful awe of people who can cook like chefs. I am not any of those people.
Once I was invited to bring a dessert of my own making to an English tea at my church. I was proudly delivering my specialty — a plate of lemon Madelines — when I froze at the door of the fellowship hall. Those good churchwomen had laid tables with baked fantasies that put a Venetian pastry shop to shame. The priest came by about that time, looked at my sad little plate of flat brown pastries, and said, “Bless your heart.”
I am a woman whose electric range has only two working burners; my electric hand mixer has only one beater. Both appliances are fine with me. My current philosophy is that we must know our strengths. We must celebrate ourselves for who we are.
I can’t cook or clean, but I don’t have fleas. And thanks be to God for that.