Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Someone Has to Do It

“Consider now,
for the LORD has chosen you 
to build a temple as a sanctuary.
Be strong and do the work."
I Chronicles 28: 10
      Garage (g-raj'):  A building or wing of a building, in which to park a car or cars. 
      Oh, so that's what it's for.  I could have sworn it was for storing Notinheres. You know, those possessions that live in the house until someone asks the fateful question, "Where should I put this?"

      Out it goes to the garage where it begins its new life.
      It's not a bad fate being relegated to the garage. There's plenty of fresh air (except for the exhaust fumes), no one bothers you (except to shove you deeper in a corner), and with luck you can live to extreme old age (anyone care for a fossilized can of mauve paint?)
      The inhabitants of the garage could live a peaceful existence if it weren't for one thing. 
      Once a year I get the urge to do it. God nudges me out the door and reminds me that cleanliness is next to godliness, and He loves a cheerful giver.  So I give my all toward cleaning the garage. 
      This usually involves relocating the Notinheres from one shelf to another. However, this year, I'm determined to hold King Solomon as my role motto: Be strong and do the work.  I’m going to be brutal and actually give things away, and throw away even more.
      Toward this end, I don my grungiest sweat pants, a yellow tee-shirt that says: I got out of bed for this?, and cover my hair so I resemble a Russian peasant working in the fields of a Siberian commune. I grab a broom and present myself to my family.
      "Wish me luck," I tell them. "I'm going to clean the garage."
      "Knock yourself out, honey," says my husband.
      "No, you don't understand," I say. "This year I'm going to try something new. I'm going to throw things away."
      He snaps to attention. "Don't you dare touch Ed McMahon."
      This is not a joke. A life-sized cardboard cutout of Johnny Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon—a sales promotion for something or other, long forgotten—followed us during a move from Nebraska to Kansas. He comes to all our parties, his hands holding a "Happy New Year" or "Go Big Red" sign. 
      "But Ed's neck is broken. It's really time we got rid—
      "Not Ed!" he says.
      "And don't give away my Rainbow Brite skates," says our oldest daughter Emily, who’s brought our granddaughter over to visit.
      "Or my football that doesn't have any air," says middle child Carson, who’s come to borrow a hedge trimmer for his own to-do list, but has been delayed by a baseball game on TV.
      "Or my Boxcar Children books," says twenty-something Laurel who’s in town to visit us—and her friends (or is she here to visit her friends—and us?)
      I smile a sinister smile and point a finger at all of them. "’A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.’”
      My family stares at me, uncomprehending. In truth...
      I got nothing.
      I close the door on all witnesses, determined to begin. The cars sit in the driveway, daring me, pleading with me to make a place for them. I move a trash can to center-stage for the throwaways and a trash bag for the giveaways. I survey the Notinheres that line the perimeter like wallflowers at a middle school dance. I turn on some music: the theme from “Rocky” offers the perfect inspiration.
      As the music swells I gain new strength. "Ready or not..."
      With mad abandon, I make a beeline for Ed McMahon. His head droops. There are cobwebs strung between his ear and shoulder.
     "Sorry, Ed. Sacrifices have to be made."
      Next go the Rainbow Brite skates. I ignore the thought that if I keep them long enough they might be worth something on Ebay—even if they are missing a wheel. I toss the airless ball (with the slit in the side) in the trash. The kid books find a place in the giveaway bag.
      The pile in the middle of the garage grows as I cut a swath through the tangle of garden hoses, Christmas lights, and torn volleyball nets. My family peeks through the door, checking my progress.
      "Don't throw that—"
      "Back, I say!" I brandish a weed-eater that hasn't worked in four years. "No one comes out until I say it's safe!" They wisely retreat lest I quote another proverb about plowing and sluggards.
      I am merciless. I toss. I throw. I sweep. 
      And finally . . . I'm done. 
      I open the door and call, "All clear. Everybody out!"
      They file into the garage. Their "oohs" and "ahhs" are fitting payment for five hours work.
      I begin my "From now on" speech directed toward my husband. "From now on all the sports equipment goes here and the tools go over there . . . "
      I catch Mark staring wistfully toward the curb where the trash cans await pickup. Ed McMahon waves a farewell, his head bobbing in the breeze.
    "It'll be all right," I tell him. "It was simply . . . his time."
      The next day, when I get in my car to go on errands, I notice an addition to our freshly cleaned garage. It's Ed. He's waving hello from the corner behind the lawn mower with duct tape strengthening his neck muscles.
      I remind myself that God is all about second chances. 
      For garages.
      For Ed.
      And even for me.