I spent a good chunk of yesterday over at the little yellow house on Green Street, cleaning and packing up the leftovers from Saturday's move. About an hour into things, I suddenly realized I had slipped into some sort of unconscious zen cleaning mode. I didn't have to think at all, I just knew what to do. My body remembers how to clean because of the three summers I worked at Bearskin Lodge. Saturday was the big day when folks would check out and in for the week, leaving us 8 hours or so to clean 12 cabins. Cabins where families had been living for a week. Shedding more hair in the shower than a freshly brushed golden retriever. Dragging in buckets of sand from the beach. Cleaning fish indoors even though they weren't supposed to. And frying every piece of food they ate. Or so it sometimes seemed. But no matter how messy things got, it was hard not to enjoy a job when this was your view to and from work every day:
At Bearskin cleaning was a highly ritualized performance. You carried your supplies from cabin to cabin in a red milk crate. You dusted before you vacuumed, you took apart stovetops and refrigerator shelves to clean them, you used Murphy's oil soap on wood floors and Tub and Tile in the bathrooms. Always. You remembered to shine the mirrors and chrome in the bathroom before you washed the floor. And when you scrubbed those floors you did it on your hands and knees. Toilets also required the hands-and-knees approach. According to Marybelle, mother of then-owner Dave Tuttle and the woman responsible for keeping all of us cleaner-folk in line, you can't get a toilet clean unless you "get down on your hands and knees and make love to it." When you're finished in each room you collect all the cleaning supplies in a pile by the door, then literally wash your butt out backwards (on hands and knees of course). Heaven help the intrepid cleaner who forgot a dustrag inside and had to sneak across the wet floor to get it; that simply would not do.
So the little yellow house on Green Street got the Bearskin treatment yesterday, right down to the butt-out-the-door floor washing and even the red milk crate. And I realized, certainly not for the first time, that all I ever needed to know about life I learned at Bearskin Lodge.