May 15, 2009

Cleaning House

Category: News — Ira @ 5:32 pm


My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or
block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?

—Erma Bombeck

I’m getting company at my house this weekend. Family. Some remnants of the great influx of Waglers that will be flowing in. For a wedding this Saturday.

And so they’ll come, the Waglers and the Yutzys. From all points of the country. By air, by land. But none by sea, as far as I know. To observe and celebrate. To witness and rejoice.

My sister Rhoda and her family will stay upstairs, in my still-empty apartment. And I mean empty. No furniture, nothing. At least it’s passably clean. Bring your pillows, air mattresses and sleeping bags, I told them. And my niece Janice, who I haven’t seen in more than two years, planned to come and sleep on my living room couch.

I’m looking forward to it. To seeing everyone, hanging out, the merry boisterous times. I’m more than delighted to play host and reciprocate a bit of the hospitality my siblings have always shown me when I visited their homes.

But to a man who has lived alone now for two-plus years, it’s cause for a bit of, well, shall we say, mild concern. I haven’t had much company, other than guy friends, at my house in a long time. And guys hanging out and snacking with my award-winning chip dip (in my eyes, at least) while watching football or baseball or Nascar usually don’t pay much attention to their surroundings. Not that they’d be even slightly concerned or offended by a messy house.

My house is comfortably cluttered. Stacks of things. Books. Boxes of this and that. Empty steel ammo boxes I use for storing things. Plastic storage tubs with lids. Bags of groceries on the kitchen table. Chips. Tinned food. Cases of water stacked in the porch. More books. Numerous pairs of shoes strewn about. Several coils of new rope I picked up at a gun show (never know when it might come in handy). Hunting knives and other outdoor gear. Backpacks. Clean shirts hanging where they dried weeks ago. And, of course, more books.

A stranger would conclude it’s a hopeless mess. The stranger would be wrong. I know where everything is. I have a system. When I need something, I pluck it from its spot and go. Throw it back when I’m done. It works for me.

So the thought of company, well, all are welcome of course. But when Janice offered to “clean my house” while she’s here, I half panicked. Not that I wasn’t greatly touched by such generosity.

“All I ask is that you have cleaning supplies around somewhere,” she said cheerfully.

Of course. Cleaning supplies. I’m sure Ellen had some such stuff way back when, stuck away in cabinets and kitchen drawers. I made a mental note. Check cleaning supplies.

But before Janice could clean, I figured I’d better get things spruced up a bit. Pre-clean the house so the real house-cleaner won’t be too horrified.

So last weekend I hit it. Vacuumed. Dusted. Swept. Wiped. Discovered some floor and table areas that had not seen the light of day for months. Stacks of books were carefully packed in large plastic storage tubs. Old newspapers discarded. Throws and spreads carefully laundered. The windows, well, the blinds were kept down as always. The way my windows are looking these days, soon I won’t need blinds. Light won’t be able to penetrate, in or out.

This spring, as usual, my house has been overrun by vast hordes of tiny little black ants. Itty bitty things. Swarming everywhere. A few weeks ago, I placed ant traps around the house. Ant hotels, I think they’re called. For some reason, the little pests ignored them completely. Traipsed blithely by. Then last week I went out and bought some sweet poison, brand name Terro. Placed drops of it on little pieces of cardboard and set them about here and there.

Instantly, the ants’ behavior changed dramatically. They congregated as if for church service. Or even better, a deadly revival. Little black rings circled my drops of poison, everywhere I placed them. The drops disappeared, the ants kept coming. I refreshed their supplies daily, bought more Terro, and refreshed supplies again. Near as I can tell, there’s about as many ants as before; when one staggers off to die, another springs forth to replace him. But at least now they are all congregated around my offerings. In out of the way places, not on the table or around the food or in the fridge, which they had somehow infested.

And so my house was about as ready as it was going to get for Janice, the cleaner. Then, on Monday, alas, an email. Apologetic. She couldn’t make it. Had to cancel her ticket. Some things had come up at work and the schedule wouldn’t allow it.

My first reaction: Disappointment, of course. I haven’t seen Janice in more than two years. In Florida, in February, 2007. So I’d been looking forward to hanging out and catching up. Now, none of that. Oh, well.

My second reaction, closely following the first: Drat. All that house cleaning, for what? Sheesh. Next time I’ll wait until she’s on the plane. Could have left it like it was. Messy. Comfortable. Cluttered. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Oh, well. Again.

Almost twenty-six years ago, back in 1983, on a hot August day, a child was born to my brother Steve and his wife Wilma. Their second. A little boy.

It was August 24th. My birthday. We were filling silo that day at my brother-in-law Alvin Yutzy’s farm. As I struggled to lift the heavy bundles of corn stalks from the ground and heave them onto the wagon, I muttered to whoever was working with me, “They’d better name him Ira.”

That’s a bit of an Amish tradition, although not poured in concrete. If a niece or nephew is born on your birthday, walla, you have a namesake. But Ira is a pretty rare name, even among the Amish. It’s really more of a Jewish name. So I wasn’t sure if my brother and his wife would do it. Burden their young son with a name like that.

But they did. Named the boy Ira Lee. I beamed with pride. Now, even if I never had a son of my own, there was someone to carry on my name.

I left Bloomfield for good around the time Ira Lee started grade school. After that, we had only periodic contact. For the first ten years or so, I faithfully sent him a greeting card each year on his birthday, a crumpled $5.00 bill tucked inside. Which was a princely sum for both me and him.

In the mid 1990s, Steve and his family moved east into Lancaster County. A rare thing for Midwestern people to do, move into the furious rat race that is Lancaster. But they did. Settled here. Successfully. Ira Lee finished his education, graduating from Faith High School. And in the next few years, acquired an Associate’s Degree in Business.

He grew into a tall, quiet young man. Taller than me by several inches. The stubborn independent Wagler streak runs in him. He often did things on the spur of the moment, in a manner that befuddled his Lancaster peers. He’s traveled the country. Toured Europe on a shoestring budget. Excels in sports. He is an accomplished writer, as those who have enjoyed his hilarious Harmon stories well know.

He is my nephew. My namesake. I’m proud of him.

This Saturday, at one o’clock, he will marry his fiancé, the lovely Rosa Miller.


I wish them well, as they join their hands and lives for their future together. May God bless their new home, in ways beyond their imagination.

They have honored me by assigning me duties as an usher at the wedding. I’m very proud to accept. For a brief time, at least, the usher is the most powerful person at a wedding. He can seat you at a spot where you can actually see and hear what’s going on, or banish you to the back benches, where there is wailing and much grief.

So to any who are attending, I’m always open to some discreet persuasion. Grease my palm with, say a $20, and I’ll get you a seat of honor, up front. Sass me, stiff me, and you’ll be seated at the back with all the bawling babies. So far back you won’t even know you’re at a wedding.

Such raw power could surge to one’s head and make one giddy. Hope I can handle it.

It’ll be fun. I can’t wait.

Last week’s post created a firestorm, resulting in an astounding forty-six comments. A record. Left all others in the dust. And that’s not even counting the dozen or so private emails I got from readers practically weeping with relief that someone had finally expressed their own frustrations.

This week I’m celebrating the wedding. And hanging out with family and freundschaft and roaring and having a good time. In the near future, perhaps even as soon as next week, I may dig in a little to examine and analyze the reasons the “Heathen” post struck such a nerve.



  1. CONGRATULATIONS to Ira Lee and Rosa!!! You can use some fun around there I’d say – maybe add some pictures to your picture archives?? Enjoy your clean house – TOO funny that you had to search for cleaning supplies! And you have an ant problem you say? Hmmm, weird. Now 50 people will respond and say, “Just because you have ants doesn’t mean you have a dirty house!” I know, I know. It’s a joke. :) Until next week…

    Comment by Beth Russo — May 15, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  2. Sorry we can’t be at the Wedding, as son Howard graduates from Erskine College almost at the same hour, so even a live web-cam won’t help there.

    Waglers and Ushers usually don’t go together so well, but this time you are the Usher, so you really are IT. Several years ago I embarresed my family good, (but not myself) when we plunked ourselves down at a local wedding, at a spot that the Usher did not approve of. It didn’t help that he was very young looking and might have been from Ohio or someplace like that. He politely asked us to move to a spot that obviously did not have a view, and it looked rather cramped. We were related to the couple, or at least Lynda is, so I whispered to him that we are ‘fine right here’. He looked rather flustered and retreated, but not for long. He must have thought we didn’t understand because a few minutes later the young chap returned and repeated his request a bit more strongly, something about it will get crowded later, or some such minor concern. My arms were folded by then and my ‘Whisper’ was probably heard over a fair circle near there. ‘We’re fine right here, if it gets crowded we can still move’..We stayed…

    Poor fellow, I hope I didn’t stunt his future Ushering skills or anything..

    Comment by Grandpa Jess — May 15, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

  3. Terro really does work–it just takes awhile. It’s the best stuff I’ve ever used.
    Hopefully you can chat w/Janice in July :0)

    Comment by Dorothy — May 15, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

  4. My heart was sad when I read this…I was so sorry to have disappointed you and had a good pity party for myself for a few days while I jumped from city to city.

    Enjoy the wedding, and I know you will be a fabulous usher since I have seen you pull it off well in the past.


    ps. Yes, you will still have to dig out the cleaning supplies when I come visit. This pre-cleaning stuff is awfully silly though, don’t you think? Must be Wagler thing…Mom does it also:)

    Comment by Janice — May 15, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  5. Good to know yet another who has the same organizational style as me! I know where everything is — unless someone cleans up or “organizes” and moves it. Too bad it looks “cluttered.” I like to live life, not organize it. “A stall without an ox is clean, but an ox makes you more productive” (my paraphrase of the Proverb).

    Comment by LeRoy — May 16, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

  6. Ira, I enjoyed meeting you today at the wedding. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.

    Comment by Merlin — May 16, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

  7. I just read a “helpful hint” that says ants won’t cross a chalk line, so I guess if you want to try putting some chalk lines on the floor for a while, that might do something. Maybe just write them a note on the driveway and hopefully they’ll just turn around.

    Comment by Beth Russo — May 17, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

  8. My apologies for hijacking the comments board here but I am a friend of Ira’s over in the US from England and I working on a slightly unusual project that I thought some Amish readers might be interested in –

    KEO Films, from London, England, has recently become involved in a series of cultural exchange programmes, in which we have invited members of foreign communities to come and visit England for a short period. We have found that their fresh perspective on our everyday lives can offer us valuable insights into the state of society, and stimulates debate about how we should be living in the modern world.

    We are now investigating the possibility of inviting members of an Amish community to contribute to the programme. We would invite them to come to England for 4 weeks to live with carefully selected English families, to offer their responses to our country and culture and to share something of their own culture and way of life with their hosts.

    We feel that the traditional Amish way of life offers a very valuable counter-point to our modern society, which is increasingly defined by fractured communities, self-obsessed individuals and rampant consumerism. We hope that the Christian values of the Amish, their fellowship and their respect for their community, will inspire and encourage the English to re-consider where their priorities lie.

    We are determined to present the Amish in a truthful and responsible way. So far, the media has tended to show the Amish in one of two extreme ways: either as a tourist fantasy land of horse and buggies, or as a community in crisis full of rebellious teenagers. Neither portrayal seems to be accurate, and neither is a fair representation of Amish culture. We hope that a more honest approach will lead the outside world to develop a better understanding of the Amish faith, and to be more tolerant of the Amish way of life.

    We understand that baptised members of the Amish church are very unlikely to agree to be filmed and as a result we are looking at taking Amish young people in their late teens/early twenties who are yet to be baptised. Again, we will seek to show that these are real, three-dimensional people, who are at an important crossroads in their spiritual and personal lives. We hope that their short trip to England will help them to understand better the world around them, and be an insightful experience for a small group of people who might otherwise not get the opportunity to travel such distances.

    It is most important to us that these cultural exchanges are positive experiences for all concerned and we will do our utmost to ensure their success, in whatever ways we can.

    For more information about the project please don’t hesitate to contact me on my US cell phone (330) 601 6812.

    Toby Paton, Assistant Producer, Keo Films, London, England

    Comment by Toby Paton — May 18, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  9. I enjoyed this blog! Especially reading about your namesake, my brother! (-: I can’t believe the celebration is over already…

    Comment by Elaine Wagler — May 18, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

  10. If anyone Amish wants to adopt me and take me to England I’m game. Good luck with your project!

    Comment by Beth Russo — May 19, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  11. Enjoyed your account about Ira Lee. No there was never any question about naming him Ira if he was born on your birthday…Still remember how happy you were when you stopped in to see him, you had seen the name in a birth announcement at Lilas. If born a day earlier or later he would’ve been named Matthew. He had a cousin Matthew then 5 mos. later…Yes your birthday card was always a little boy’s highlight…

    You did a great job ushering!

    Comment by Wilma Wagler — May 20, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  12. Yeah, we got home from the wedding last night, they had such a nice wedding. I could easily remember little Ira Lee w/out closing my eyes. You did a fine job ushering, you knew exactly where everyone sits. I was impressed w/Rosa’s family, they did a super job making the wedding. I think Ira Lee and Rosa will fit nicely into each other’s family and with each other. Bless you for another good post.

    Comment by Rachel — May 21, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML ( You can use these tags):
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> .