Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cobwebs at the White House

Several years ago it was my privilege to be allowed to tour the White House in Washington, D.C.  This is not something that can be easily done in these post-911 days. You have to really want it.

First you must submit an application to your local congressman or woman, and agree to a complete background check.  This must be done at least six months in advance.  You need not be famous, or even a local VIP, but you must be able to demonstrate that you are not a serial killer or a deranged activist of some sort.  Those folks generally show up uninvited and simply hop the fence.  

After an interminable wait of several months, you may then receive a set of emailed instructions, which are not to be taken lightly, as I will explain in the next post.  Suffice it to say now, one really must pay attention to the details.

Thus, after much anticipation, and no small amount of preparation, my traveling companion and I entered those hallowed halls.  Well, actually it was one hall, from around the side and near the back.

Tourists, do not enter through the front door, of course; but rather they file in through an obscure side door; and they do so quietly, almost reverently. Why, I am not sure, but it may have something to do with the rigorous process they have gone through just to get in.  But the designated entrance is, well ... how shall I put this? Tacky.  

Sorry, but it was.  There was a lon-n-n-g entryway ramp, covered by sprung frame tent-tunnel, which zig-zagged back and forth like a waiting line at Disneyland or like the customer counter at your local bank. Finally you arrive at a set of tables attended upon by secret service agents, who are uniformly fit, polite, and implacable.  You will do as they say or you will not proceed any further.  (Again, more on that in the next post.)
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At long last we entered the actual building itself, The White House.  I have read that over a million visitors a year pass through its portals, and that a staff of around eighty people, working in shifts around-the-clock, are needed to keep it maintained. 

In light of that, I expected spit-polish shine in every direction. Glints coming off shining window panes and mirror reflections on every surface.  And for the most part, as we passed through the Red Room and the Blue Room and the Green Room, that is precisely what we saw.

At one point we spent several delightful minutes gazing through glass at the presidential china from nearly every administration.  The place settings were lined up on tiered shelving, on both walls of a wide hallway. Some sets were fancifully designed, while others were minimally stately; but all were fascinating.

This was the famous setting from the movie The American President starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, wherein while trying to impress her on their first date, he takes her on a tour of what he called "the dish room."

There was so much to take in - so much to ponder - so much to ...wait, what ?  What is that?  Is it ... no, it can't be.  It is !

There in an unobtrusive corner, tucked up high in the crown molding were cobwebs.  Yes, right here in the most famous home in America, there they were, evidence that no matter how hard you try, no home can be kept perfectly.  Isn't possible.  Cannot be done.

I stood quietly peering upward for a few seconds, wonder struck.  Yes, I know, most people would not have given them a second glance, if they noticed them at all.  Not when there were historical artifacts of stunning significance within arm's reach in every direction.

But I am an odd sort, and this is not new information if you have read this blog for more than two posts.  So what can I tell you?  I stood there having an epiphany.

How many times had I nearly killed myself, trying to attain housekeeping perfection when guest were coming? (Or even when they were not, but I simply wanted everything to be perfect.)  

How often had I travailed over streaky windows, lamented over carpet nap that would not vacuum to like-new appearance (probably because it was ten years old)?  How many times had I dusted, and then re-polished, and then swiped again, whatever was within reach, moments before people walked through the front door, hoping against hope that all was perfect?

The simple answer:  too darned many.

I sincerely wish I could tell you that I am a "recovering perfectionist"; but I would be lying.  I don't even have a one-year token.  I struggle with wanting, nay, needing everything to be just so.  But it never is.

Real life is messy.  It is dusty, and sticky, and sometimes downright cruddy.  Any woman who has ever done housework knows that it is work.  Not fun, not joy, not creativity; but work.  Down and dirty work.  Backbreaking work.  Mind-numbing work.  Many of you can relate to what I am saying.
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So I left The White House that day smiling - for many reasons.  My companion had accomplished a special check-off on his bucket list. I was glad for him.    I had seen things that I had only read or heard about.  I was glad about that.

But most of all, I was smiling because of a secret glimpse into the nature of imperfection.  It is everywhere.  It cannot be denied, it can only be accepted or ignored.  

I mean really, people, if they can have cobwebs in the corner at a place where dozens of folks labor carefully twenty-four hours a day to maintain the highest quality of housekeeping known to mankind, why should I fret?  

Note to self:  Marsha, for heaven's sake. relax.

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While I will never achieve perfection, whether of the mundane housekeeping variety, nor of the much more vital spiritual kind; the fact is that I do not have to.  My Father already did that for me.

Whew!  What a relief. .... Until next time, your formerly crazed cleaning ninja, but now gratefully grubby gardener ~ Marsha


  1. It's a good thing we visited the White House before an application was necessary. We went at Christmas so the decorations hid the cobwebs. I don't know what is wrong with Michelle Obama. She should be cleaning 24/7, and put her girls to work, too. Fancy schmancy school. They should be scrubbing floors. (I'm kidding. I love Michelle Obama.)

    1. From what I have seen on TV the Christmas decorations are fabulous at the White House. How special to get to see them in person. Nice to hear from you, Janie.

  2. How interesting! And, yes, thankfully, as Christians, we can one day look forward to perfection. Glory! Glory!

    1. Lea,
      Something to look forward to, indeed. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I'm going to feel a whole lot better the next time one of those cobwebs shows up at my house!

    1. So glad I could give you a good reason to ease up on yourself. :)

  4. Hi Martha! What a great way to spin seeing a cobweb (no pun intended). What an honor to see the White House though, that would be so interesting!
    The fact that you came away smiling is such a grace. I am a recovering perfectionist myself, and that cobweb would probably make me crazy! I need a heart like yours, and I'm going to try and be a little easier on myself and my house. Thanks!
    Oh, I have a rug just like yours. Not a bit of nap left I'm afraid...

    1. Ceil, Aren't you glad we are at that point in our lives where we can decide to overlook imperfections, both those of "other people" ...and yes, even our own from time to time.
      Yea! Have a good evening, Ceil.

  5. I feel the same about my garden. It never is perfect enough for me, whereas in the house I can cope with a few cobwebs.

    1. Oh, diane, I can only dream that my garden will one day have that kind of orderly look. While many of my plants from the past two years are doing well, we are really struggling with our drought around here. Good for you for ignoring a few measly cobwebs.

  6. Now I'm on the lookout for cobwebs in my condo. :) (only kidding) But I'm kind of surprised that everything at the White House wasn't polished and shined. Maybe it was the maid's day off. I've been to Washington DC but have never toured the White House. I loved watching the Christmas tree specials from when George Bush was President.