Friday, August 6, 2010

Ajax Saturdays

Pink Orchid on White
Most days begins like any other. I wake up and saunter slowly down the stairs to my beloved coffee pot where the caffeinated catalyst that jumpstarts my day awaits me. On weekdays, I’m out the door by the second cup of coffee and on my way to the office where I slowly finish waking up. But on the weekends, I generally find myself tooling around the house, wondering what I will do with the day. Here in Maine summers are short, which is the perfect excuse for getting out of the house. I could go down to the harbor, the beach, take a cool ride in the country, anything. It’s the weekend!!!

But as the coffee kicks in and the cobwebs in my head disappear, It dawns on me that all week long, no…strike that….all month long, parts of my house have been seriously neglected and are in need of a good cleaning. No problem! I’ll just tidy up around the house and let myself off the hook. With that thought, I gulp down the rest of my coffee, but as I do I see the reflection of my own eyes and nose glaring back at me from the inside the bottom of the cup. Seeing myself at the bottom of the coffee cup is like seeing my conscious, and it’s giving me a dirty look. Almost immediately I hear my mother’s fills my head, “if you’re going to do something, do it right” Rats!! I hate it when my sense of responsibility overrides my sense of ‘eh, who cares’. Welcome to Ajax Saturday!

I have many fond happy memories of my childhood. Ajax Saturdays are not amongst them. My dear mother, famous for her spontaneous and ambitious cleaning streaks, was and still is the best example I had when it came to cleaning house. Of course when your 15, you’ve got better things to do on a Saturday morning, or at least that’s what I would tell her. Sadly, that argument never did get me very far. Resistance was futile with mom, and if I complained, there was always the garage that needed cleaning. So with a half hearted smile and a murmur under my breath, I would accept my list of recently invented chores from mom, scribbled on the back of a half torn, coffee stained white envelope, or some piece other scrap of paper. Those days became known as Ajax Saturdays, the days when things didn’t just get cleaned, they got Ajax cleaned.

Let’s take the refrigerator for instance. Any other day of the week, one of us kids might wash down the outside of the fridge, or maybe wipe up some unidentified muck stuck to the shelves inside. But on Ajax Saturdays, this simple cleaning just would not do. Ajax Saturdays meant taking all the food out of the refrigerator, then all the shelves. Next, mom had us fetch a great big bucket of hot soapy water which would be used to douse the entire inside of the fridge. If there were parts that just wouldn’t come clean, out came a tall can of Ajax. The stains always came off. While all of this was going on, the glass shelves would be soaking in the bathtub, a combination of dish soap and Ajax in the hot water. Oh, and since the fridge was empty we might as well pull it out from the wall so we could vacuum and mop back behind it. Say your prayers dust bunnies! Mom’s got the ShopVac out and she’s not afraid to use it!

I don’t know where we came up with the term Ajax Saturday, or if we even came up with it at all. It’s just always ‘sorta been there, a part of my childhood. I guess it probably stems from how we approached household cleaning projects. It didn’t matter if it was the tub, the toilet, or the fridge; there was simply nothing a can of Ajax and some elbow grease couldn’t tackle. To this day, the smell of that cleaning agent always takes me back to bright sunny Saturday mornings as a kid. While my friends came and knocked on the door beckoning me to come out and play, I’d be checking items off my chore list, silently praying that the Ajax would run out before I got to the bottom of it. My mom took great pride in the appearance of her kitchen and her house, and she still does today.

This past weekend, with drier, cooler air moving into Maine, I found myself strangely invigorated, you might even say excited. I’ve been wanting to clean my front porch for months now. The weather was perfect, so out came the big bucket filled with steamy hot water, lots of soap and a couple of big brushes to get the job done. A couple hours later, water droplets still quietly dribbling off the freshly washed vinyl porch ceiling, a sense of accomplishment fell over me. The vinyl siding, once dingy and dirty from years of accumulated dust, now looked brand new.

Mission accomplished.

Perhaps this is the feeling my mom had when she put all the food back into the refrigerator. That feeling that comes from knowing you did a good job, a complete and thorough job. Now her entire family can enjoy the fruits of her labor; she knew for a fact that there are no science projects growing amongst the potato salad, no penicillin inside that two year old jar of applesauce. In fact, the slight smell of Ajax coming from the refrigerator meant it was clean, which also meant it was healthy.

I never did like Ajax Saturdays. I always knew that there would be some cleaning project waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs when I woke up on Saturday mornings, but in hindsight I wouldn’t change a thing. It taught me doing a good job either at my secular job, or just cleaning my front porch, a job worth doing is worth doing well, a virtue I hope to instill in my kids. But over the years, I come to appreciate that once you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do; the relaxation you enjoy later seems sweeter, well deserved. So Saturday afternoon, after cleaning my porch I went into my studio, and worked on another project, this one more of a personal nature. I set out to create a portrait of some flowers on a clean white background, an image I would soon use for stock photography. The beautiful pink Orchid you see here was shot on a white background to isolate the subject (the flower and stem). In photography, it’s known as an isolated image.
For my mom, who instilled a good work ethic in me by setting the example of how to do things right, I love you, and thank you.

The clean white background of this image was possible due to the abundant amounts of studio lighting used, but I’d bet if I had to, a can of Ajax could accomplish the same thing.
Kevin Kratka

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