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Horrors of Spring Cleaning

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Mom had no idea what she had done. She had ruined not just my life, but my three brothers’ and sister’s lives also. It was too late to try to undo the damage. The garbage truck had already pulled away hours earlier from 110 Flamingo Street and, along with it, all of our most prized possessions. At 8 years old, it was my first encounter with the horrors of Spring Cleaning. It wouldn’t be the last.

The dreadful deed had been done in less than a day while we were all off at school. Just because it had taken 10 minutes for me to find my missing shoe that morning, Mom had decided it was time for spring cleaning to start. Little did she know just how her cleaning would affect us then and how we would remember it now.
In Mom’s defense, she’d given fair warning. For months she had told us to clean up our rooms. Both she and Dad were tired of tripping over a legion of little green army men, slingshots, and limbless Barbie dolls.

In our defense, we had gotten most everything off the floor. It was stuffed under our beds or piled in the bottom of closets. Sure, there was a random body part still lying around, an arm, leg, even a head here or there, but that was to be expected. Especially when you’re in a war for your life with an angry horde of The Sister’s Barbie dolls.
The “junk” Mom cleaned out from our rooms wasn’t junk to us kids. In the midst of her spring cleaning, our irreplaceable toys and their memories had been thrown away. No longer safely crammed under our beds or pilled in the bottom of closets, their new home was located deep in the county landfill.
Bubba Hanks’s Disk-O-Death was one of the treasures stored in my room. Ever since his legendary ride down a snow-covered Flamingo Street that had ended in a crash through Old

Mrs. Crabtree’s living room window, Bubba had let me keep the metal trash can lid made into a snow disk. His dad had told him to throw it away, so Bubba threw it my way.
It had been over two years since it had snowed on Flamingo Street, but that didn’t make the disk any less valuable. On that spring cleaning day, Mom thought differently.
A bloodstained wood bat in the bottom of my closet was another treasure that looked like junk to anyone who wasn’t a kid. Almost every inch sported dings and gouges from hitting rocks instead of baseballs. The blood was from hitting a giant paper wasp nest. The nest was located in a tree next to the haunted forest behind our house.

No, the blood wasn’t from the wasps. It was from me. Running away, I slipped, fell, and cut my hand. Ten stitches, eight stings, and a bunch of pain later were a good reminder. Only things bats should be used for hitting were baseballs and, of course, rocks.
Bubba could’ve made another disk. The bat, minus the blood, could’ve been easily replaced – rock dings included. But my very survival depended on at least one of the two slingshots that went missing that day.
Sure, both needed their surgical tubing replaced, but they were invaluable when fighting off Down the Street Bully Brad and his gang. After all, spring was prime time to be beaten up by a bully. Unaware, Mom had made me defenseless.

Last week, The Wife stood behind me as I peered into my closet holding one shoe. The search was on once again. Seems old habits do die hard after all. She said, “I think it’s time for some spring cleaning. No telling what we’ll find in the bottom of your closet.”
“You may find my other shoe, but you won’t find Bubba Hanks’s Disk-O-Death, a blood-stained bat with rock dings, or a couple of homemade slingshots. Those are long gone.”

She replied, “Still living back at 110 Flamingo Street, are we?”
I hugged her and smiled, “Sometimes seems I never left.”
She gave me a kiss and informed me my other shoe was under the bed where it was kicked last night.
Me, I’m blaming The Sister’s angry horde of Barbie dolls. Looks like its time to go to war once again — right after I make a couple of slingshots.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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