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A Little Clean Dust Never Hurt Anybody
by Alita DeBerry




Did you know that on any given day there are 117,808.21 tons of dust from the air settling down over the USA? Most of it, they claim, sifts into our houses.

Now I don't know how the official dust-watchers calculate their figures, nor how they came by the data that an average six-room house falls heir to 40 pounds of it in one year, but I'm acquainted with a host of clean queens who simply will not allow their share of this dust beyond their doormat; that probably explains why I always end up with more than my share. That's how averages work.

And I'm going to tell you this before some blabber-mouth does: My house won't exactly stand up to the white-glove test, nor would it qualify as an emergency first-aid station or operating room.

Dust bunnies, dust devils, where does it all end?

Sweeping the room with a glance -- now that's my idea of housecleaning.

Here on the home front, I more or less play housekeeping by ear. My method can pretty well be summed up by this little incident the other day, when I said to the Frenchman, who spied an automobile turning into our driveway: "Quick, Honey, spray a little Pledge around the room so it'll smell like I dusted."

A lot of housekeepers among my acquaintances -- I started to say "friends," but before I seal any friendship, I have to know what sign you were born under: neatness or clutter -- go at housecleaning with a vengeance.

They are natural born enemies of our good earth, it seems; I am just not that uptight about a little dust.

Like Daddy used to say when a tot would fall down and get her new shoes dusty, or drop her cookie: "Oh, it's all right; a little clean dirt never hurt anybody."

And I'm always startled when kids come here to pick blackberries with their country cousins and refuse to eat their bounty until it's washed, of all things. We'd have been laughed out of the county for being so picky.

You can become a slave to a house if you're not careful. I've always believed a house is happier with just a little bit of dust and clutter; like kids, houses can't be quite themselves in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes.

Why, at my front door, an eyeball audit of my living room will tell you I am not at odds with dust, just as it will tell you I won't be apt to be featured in one of those glossy 'It's great to be rich and redecorate every week' magazines, or even in the Good Housekeeper of the Month journal.

Show me a home without dust, a house with no newspapers stacked on the sofa, no coffee cup on the end table or foot-loose sock on the stair, and I'll show you a museum.

And it's possible you can overdo housework. For example, on a day of long-overdue dusting, the man of the house pointed in wide-eyed disbelief, and asked: "What happened to the dust on this table? I had a phone number written in it!"

As I've pointed out before, my house is like a nature reserve. It's the only place I know where you can go on a field trip without leaving the house. We've got ants, wasps, mosquitoes, spiders, and one day I came face to face with a garden snake in the hallway.

He'd slithered in under the front door. (That's one way to get your handyman to fix the threshold.)

Recently I'd gone upstairs to iron clothes that had been homesteading the ironing board and found that dirt-daubers, ignoring the old jeans, had built a red-clay duplex on my best white shorts.

And as I was saying to little Elvis, the household skink, the other day, "If you don't include more spiders and wasps in your diet, I'm going to start charging for your keep."

Where does it end?

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Alita DeBerry has been writing professionally for twenty years, starting as a correspondent and feature writer for the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. For most of this time, Alita was also writing a column for several weeklies in the South. Her column has been published in the Atlanta JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION and her travel articles have appeared in several magazines.

Alita has been married to Horace DeBerry (the same man) for almost a half century. She refers to him in her columns as "The Frenchman." They have two daughters--Lisa and Stephanie.

The Deberry family has lived in various states--Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, California--and then retired to the home place in Carroll County, Mississippi, where Alita grew up. They've now stayed put for two decades.

CLICK HERE to read another of Alita's stories at USADS: "Bird Songs."
And here's another: Paint My World In Pastels

Write Alita at Scribbler211.



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