74: On a Clear Day

74: On a Clear Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

On a Clear Day

Cleanliness is next to impossible.

~Author Unknown

It was the first week of May and one of those clear-blue-sky, smell-of-freshly-mown-grass days. With average annual snowfall of 125 inches, we Central New Yorkers tend to go a little crazy on a spring day like this, and I was no exception. I had inherited the do-it-yourself gene… sometimes successful, sometimes not. And it was time to execute the brilliant plan I had conceived during those long winter months.

The double-pane thermal picture window in our living room had been getting progressively cloudier. Evidently, the thermal seal had leaked, allowing moisture to collect between the two panes of glass, ruining the view. My plan was to break just one pane, thereby allowing me to clean both sides of the remaining windowpane! As far as the thermal window feature being lost, I’d just buy a really nice pair of insulating drapes.

Steffy, five, and Chip, three, didn’t know what to think as I assembled my “tools.” They sat on the floor, saucer-eyed and uncharacteristically quiet. After moving the furniture aside, I spread an old paint-speckled canvas drop cloth under the window and anchored it with the large metal trashcan from the garage. I peeled open the new package of masking tape and taped the window so that it would break into manageable pieces rather than tiny splinters. Next, I pulled on a pair of my husband Charlie’s heavy-duty work boots, his thick protective fireman’s gloves and jacket, and a pair of safety glasses from the toolbox. By now, the kids were rolling around on the floor, hysterical with laughter. I must admit I did look ridiculous! Finally, I told the kids to leave the room so Mommy could break the window! Really! I said that!

I was ready. I picked up the hammer and based on no scientific theory whatsoever, mentally calculated how hard to swing it; too hard and both panes would shatter, not hard enough and neither would break. I took a deep breath and swung! Nothing happened. I’d been too tentative. I mustered up the determination to break it this time, and swung again. Again, nothing! I tried a different area of the window. Wham! Nothing!

“Mommy, how ya doin?” little Steffy yelled from the kitchen.

“Mommy’s fine, honey! You guys just stay there!”

As I stood looking at the window thinking, I heard little giggles coming from the kitchen. Then it hit me! The reason the window wasn’t breaking was because I’d taped it too well! Just like I’d seen people do on The Weather Channel when a hurricane was threatening. they taped so their windows wouldn’t break!

I peeled off a few strips and went to the garage to find our aluminum baseball bat. I planted my feet before an imaginary home plate and swung for the top of the bleachers! Yes! Home run! The glass finally broke! Some glass ended up on the drop cloth, but most of the window hadn’t fallen. It was cracked in a million places but the tape had done its job. I carefully pried the rest of the window out, piece by piece, smug with my accomplishment of breaking just the one pane. That done, I swept the glass onto the drop cloth, into the dustpan, and into the trashcan. Eager to clean my “new” window, I tore off the gloves, jacket, and safety glasses. The only thing left to do was to return the trashcan to the garage. Grabbing the handles I went to lift it. Oops! I had no idea how heavy glass could be! I might as well have been trying to pull a fire hydrant out of the ground.

“Oh well,” I thought. “Charlie can do this when he gets home.”

My moment had arrived! In just a few minutes, I’d have a beautiful, clear view! Armed with a new bottle of window cleaner and a full roll of paper towels, I began to spray. And wipe. And spray. And wipe.

“What the heck?”

A little knot started to tighten in my stomach. I tried a different spot. Nothing. Another spot. No luck. I slumped into Charlie’s favorite chair and stared at the window in sheer disbelief!

“What’s wrong, Mommy?” asked Steffy.

Only minutes before, they’d been sitting on the couch clapping and cheering: “Mommy broke the window! Yay! Mommy broke the window! Yay!”

Undaunted, I went through the house and gathered up every conceivable cleanser and chemical I could find. First I tried good old-fashioned vinegar. It didn’t touch it. Powdered cleanser. Nope. Turpentine. Nail-polish remover. Oven cleaner! Absolutely nothing worked. The moisture that had crept in between the panes had actually etched itself into the window, creating “frosted” glass. A single-edge razor scraped away some of the cloudiness but left little scratches at the same time. I stepped back, staring and hating the still-hazy window, when suddenly something became crystal clear: Charlie had just pulled in and was about to become a very unhappy husband. (Did I mention that I’d kept this idea to myself?) As soon as they heard the door open, the kids raced to their daddy, virtually exploding with their mommy-broke-the-window-on-purpose story! Suffice it to say he was not amused.

“Okay, let me get this straight,” Charlie said. “You decided to clean the window by swinging a baseball bat at it?”

“Well, actually,” I replied, “I tried it with a hammer first.”

Okay. Maybe that wasn’t the best time to joke.

He just stood there shaking his head while looking at me, then the window, then again at me. I asked him if he would do me a big favor and take the trashcan back into the garage. When he came back in, he was still shaking his head.

“Do you have any idea, any idea at all what it’s like being married to you?”

I detected a slight smile.

“Full of surprises?” I ventured.

“Ha!” was his very loud reply.

Then he started laughing, so of course I started crying.

The following week we had a brand new picture window professionally installed!

~Pamela Kae Bender

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