by Julie Lockhart
The only thing I don’t love about my third husband is his vacuum cleaner. It’s an upright, uptight and snooty Miele. Knowing him, he spent 10,000 hours researching the best vacuum cleaner ever made. He does this with everything he buys. He’s exceedingly proud of it.
I call her Melba–not the succulent peach kind. She came into my husband’s life before I did, and thus her place of prominence. Melba is the whale of vacuum cleaners. If she tried to ride a dinosaur, it would collapse under her weight. Imagine lifting Melba to place her on a memory foam rug. You’d get the same backache I have. (In all fairness to Melba, it’s not the “quality of the suck”—my husband’s words—that concerns me. She’s a Miele, after all…)
Melba comes with a wandy-thing, my favorite part of any vacuum cleaner. But this one is as uptight and inflexible as my mother. A scrunchy, and supposedly expandable tube wraps around Melba’s upper torso, while the wand itself snuggles in its cozy slot in the back. I remove the cozy hose to get the dust out of corners, but after covering six inches of edge, Melba resists. Mind you, it looks like she has plenty of expandable tube left. Yet she insists there’s no more reach to her wandy-thing—well, unless Melba would decide to come along. Which brings me back to her being a whale—a stubborn one. I grab Melba’s neck and tug her toward me, only to find her doing some kind of kinky yoga stretch. Her torso twists and bends toward me, with a come-hither flare. I believe such a move is humanly possible, but is it vacuum-ly possible? My monkey-mind fears she’d topple over, and because of her weight, the wind will be knocked out of her blow-hole along with my dirty secrets. And then, I’d have to muster the strength to make her upright so she can clean my messes all over again.
I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t you bring your own vacuum cleaner to this marriage?
I did. I, too, had a Miele—a red bug of a canister with a hose that was the main event, with all the right attachments for a spotless house. No yogic torso, nothing scrunchy about that hose. My Miele, Harriet (awesome at sucking up hair and cat fur), was an impulse purchase, and she performed with excellence. When we four moved in together several years ago, our new digs had a whole-house vacuum system, which put Melba’s and Harriet’s value into question (and caused immense jealousy for each). I loved it. My husband hated it. He clung to Melba, insisting on lugging her upstairs and downstairs and all around when it was his turn to vacuum. Instead, I would pull out the whole-house tubing with various attachments and whisk around the house like Tinkerbelle with a feather duster. Easy. Given the obvious bond my husband has to Melba, my Harriet was the logical choice for donating to a local nonprofit. The consolation is that for the rest of her life, Harriet will be filled with the warmth of collecting dust for a good cause.
My hub and I believed we were vacuuming in our “forever” home. Little did I know back then that just shy of four years later, we’d be moving to a whole new town. And thus my need get better acquainted with Melba. Our new home has radiant heat concrete floors—and rugs. This means weight-lifting Melba to get on top of said rugs. She doesn’t roll happily onto a rug on her own without a fight. Sometimes she sucks the fringe into her whale-sized mouth (the quality-of-the-suck on steroids) and I have a battle on my hands—to pull her back before she swallows the entire rug.
In my mind, a house is not really clean without using a wandy-thing to get dust, dirt, and my post-quarantine long hairs out of the corners. Tonight, guests are coming for dinner—people I’ve never met before. This means I’m much more persnickety than I would be for friends who love me whether my dust swirls in the corners or not. Thus, I’m dragging Melba around—and taking some humanly possible stretching breaks—trying to figure out how best to move this Beluga to do what I need, all while scheming how I could replace her without my husband noticing. Maybe I should let her devour a whole rug so she’d be toast!
Two rooms down. As I stop to stretch my back, I look out the windows to see evergreens bending sideways in a diagonal downpour. And… The power goes out. Darn! I couldn’t be happier wet-mopping the remainder of the edges on my hands and knees. Especially because next time will be my husband’s turn to vacuum. Third marriage is definitely the charm.
Julie Lockhart spent most of her career in academia. Her essays have been published in the Medford Mail Tribune, Ashland Daily Tidings, Minerva Rising, and the Journal of Wild Culture. She has twice placed in the top ten in the Women on Writing essay contests. She lives in Port Townsend, in the State of Washington, USA.