Saturday, March 7, 2009

Clean-up Fairy

Considering that PPP and I took a road trip, I missed two days of school. I anticipated that things would not be as I had left them. Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate the train-wreck caused by the clean-up fairy.

Ms K met me at the end of the hall when I got to school, walked down the hall, hovering at my elbow, murmuring apologies that built in urgency. Something tragic must have happened. Was somebody sick? Somebody fired? Did I get fired while I was gone? That seems to be a trend these days, it just seemed only natural.
At school, I use the "organized stacks" filing system, in which one carefully stacks sets of papers on strategic geographic locations on the desk, behind the desk, beside the desk, on the window sill, sometimes even on the floor. Papers are in alphabetical order, and the stacks are in date order. Every class has a stack. I know what's in each stack and mostly what order things are in, and I know where on the desk each stack is located. Perhaps there are sometimes extraneous papers and pens and cups spread around, things get knocked off but I manage that fine. The point is that it is MY stuff...MY mess, if you must insist.

When we walked in Ms. K said "Isn't this going to be a big help?" I couldn't at that moment figure out what "this" was. "I knew how much stress you're under, so I cleaned up for you while you were gone."
NO $*#! Surely, I had already been fired, my desk cleaned out, and I was there to just pick up my A to Z book ends. There are no stacks, no piles, no geographical landmarks on my desk to tell me that the 6th grade papers are here, while the 8th grade papers are there. Cleaned up? Wrecked? Same thing.

So...I started with the effusive thanks. Thanks so much for being so considerate. Thanks so much for all the time it must have taken. So, how much time did you actually spend in there? Thanks so much for ... thinking about me? And where might my umbrella be, since I have carpool in 3 minutes and it's raining? Also, any notion where the sub folders are?

I used to have a paper blotter, face up November, 2008. It's gone. Gone with it are lots and lots of phone numbers, like the cell phone number of my favorite florist and email addresses and websites that I have made note of for the past . . . however long. Tucked under those pages were receipts and more notes and more stuff of mine. Also gone.
I had some boxes of text books that we don't use any more, since we are a tech-forward LAPTOP school No more boxes. Now I have those un-used books stacked by size and color in my window sill.

How thoroughly sweet! The clean-up fairy cleaned up! She gave the sweetest and most sacrificial gift she could give me - her time. She made MY world look like HER world. Side effect - thoroughly unable to find anything, most crucially the things I had left ready for that very morning's worth of children, who would come pouring through the door in 18 minutes.

It has come to my attention that I am not a classically neat person. I am organized - in my head. It has been a point of contention with my mother ever since I got old enough to "make a mess." I don't see it as mess. It doesn't register in my consciousness as mess. It registers as stacks. And I know what's in each stack. Papers are in alphabetical order, and the stacks are in date order. I use the same system with my clothes, and I always have. Stacks. When the stacks get unruly, I clean up, but I always end up with more stacks. That has never been a popular position with Mimi, who believes that somehow I am doing an injustice to my family by using this organizational system. It does not seem to bother them, because for the most part, they all use the same system.

When I finally came around and sat down in that big blue chair I discovered that not only had she cleaned up my desk, she had cleaned up my trash. I had a box beside my desk for recycle paper. Beside it is a crate that holds things like last semester's exams, and projects, and study guides. Not any more. NOW, there is a box in which all of that paper - trash and exams, are stacked neatly - in one box. Somewhere in the corner of the window sill is another stack. One single stack. Five classes + trash in one stack. Cleaned up my trash - sorry, I am horrified. Also, terribly ungrateful. Ms K gave up a DAY to clean up my trash.

As the week went on, people stuck their heads in the door to ask "how was your trip....and how do you like your new room?" Apparently, the clean-up angel had started in on Friday morning, roughly 12 hours after I left the night before, in full clean-up regalia to TACKLE the project. She worked all day. She spent an entire day in my room cleaning up. And going through my every note and receipt. Also, plowing through my trash. And everyone in our school knew what she was doing and how much time she spent doing it. Everywhere I went people greeted me with thngs like "How is your new clean room?" or "Wasn't it great to come back to a clean room?" Those chipper people did not have their world re-organized, only with no key as to where things might be found.
So, while I was here with the Princess, the clean-up fairy was creating her own reality show "Extreme Classroom Make-over" in my room. One particularly perceptive colleague said "I wondered how you were going to feel about that." Yeah, wondered.

She gave up a whole entire work day, to spend it in my room, dealing with my mess, re-organizing my bookshelves, looking through my calendar, going through my trash. Is there not a piece of that statement that's a little bit creepy? Stupid, ungrateful me - feeling creepy about this genuine, loving, helpful gift. See?

I asked her if anyone else who might be in a position to care - principle? students? headmaster? parents? God? - had complained that my room was messy. NO, she assured me. No complaints. Did she have an inkling that people were talking a because my room was 'messy'. NO, it was just her, all her, and her desire to serve me. Because I am so, so ...what, pitiful?
I have spent the last days in serious conflict. Feeling bad because Ms K spent a whole entire work day in my room, and I am not squealing with joy. I'm feeling guilty because I feel so invaded; feeling wicked for my un-grateful, whiny response. Paranoid because someone went through my trash. Also concerned, wondering what actually was IN my trash.

I am waiting to feel the delight and relief that a really good clean-up offers. I'm not feeling it. I guess I would feel better if I had my order in my world, and not someone else's verision of order installed in my absence.

Is that pathetic? Am I that pathetic?

Before I left this week, I made sure it was at least a little neat. I flipped the pages of the calendar book, which I had carefully replaced at just the right angle on the clean desk. On the pages of this week was written in big colorful letters "Spring Break" Seriously? I needed some stress relief from the clean-up that I didn't do.
A teacher on our hall has whole boxes of chocolate and candy in her cabinet. We all make frequent stress-relief trips to the cabinet. Not so much. Lent.


Anonymous said...

Ummm...that seems a little creepy to me. Why would she feel the need to go through your things? I feel it's a bit presumptuous of her to think you would want your things organized "her" way. I'm kind of feeling angry for you...why is her way the right way???

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

Ahhhhh! I am glad that I am not you.

But however you were very gracious to not yell and scream at her.

BTW where have you been?

I have missed you. Could not find your blog on my google reader, but that might be since there are over 90 of them now.

I missed you!