Look up “neat” in my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and the first definition is “clean”. I couldn’t disagree more!
Perhaps part of my resistance comes from the fact that I am not neat, but my training as a dentist and my love of food preparation makes me extremely conscious of being clean. Perhaps the problem is not so much a disagreement with Mr. Webster as it has to do with the fact that the dictionary was a wedding present and has been in continual use for fifty years, and the general lexicon has dramatically changed, moving through, “You have a neat desk” and “That is a neat car” to just “Neat!” I always liked the joke about his response when, on his death bed, Webster was asked, “Do you have a last word?” To which he reportedly respond, “Zygote.”
I do not have a neat desk.
In fact at times my wife claims it was the inspiration for James A. Michener’s book “The Source” You may remember that Michener used a devise where an archeological dig turns up artifacts in an ancient mound composed of the remains of successive settlements in Makor. He traces the history of Israel from ancient times to the then present though analyzing various strata of the digs. At times my desk has such strata.
I claim it is not a question of neatness, but can better be explained as maintaining items conveniently so they are readily accessible for use in whatever creative project is on my mind at the time. Mary says, “Horse-hockey” or some such phrase. She cleans her desk every week before the cleaning ladies come to dust. The ladies don’t touch my desk.
What brings this subject to mind is that I have the pleasure of living across the street from my grandchildren and less than a mile from the other of my two sons. The other day my six year-old grandson, Ethan, was visiting and in the course of our activities he treated me to all sorts of childhood curiosities. He builds things with a set of blocks his father used when he was Ethan's age. That day he built a ferry boat and placed it near a mooring he called “The Bay”. A few weeks ago I had taken him on our little Balboa Island Ferry and told him that one day we might go to the Back Bay, which I think he would enjoy. His memory and creativity were the most thanks I could ask for.
Of course there was also a Pirate Ship.
Later he wanted to water the pants on our deck. Questions rolled out faster than the water from the hose: “Why do some plants have those pipes in the ground?” “To get the water down to the roots better.” “Why not have pipes in all the plants?” “Because they cost $9.” “What is that plant? (Mint). “Why don’t you smell it and guess? (Don’t know). “Taste it? (Still don’t know). Mint.” (Next time he’ll know).
When we went inside he watched my write my blog and asked what an empty container was doing on my desk. “It’s for a photo memory card.” “Where is the card?” When we found it, he placed it in its container and seemed satisfied.
Ethan’s Uncle Tim is a teacher in a K-8 parochial school, lives in a condo where his friends believe he has a daily cleaning service and has the nickname at school as “Mr. QC (Quality Control). That used to bother me because he would point out things that were not quite right but would never fix them. He has matured and now he is a great handyman asset to Mary and me. We may have contributed to his attitude because we used to play a game when the boys were growing up. It was called “Take away from the table”. We would take turns removing an item from the table while the family had their eyes closed. Then we would have to guess what was missing. Great memory game!
Tim’s brother is detail oriented but like his father is not neat. I wonder how Ethan will turn out.
Tuesday’s blog will finally get to the DMV-Toll Road story. Don’t miss it.