Furniture and Reincarnation

It was the semi annual cleaning day in the Woodard household. The CD Player was turned to LOUD, children were hustled out of bed with a super soaker, and the mission began, directed and orchestrated by DAD.

Do you believe in reincarnation? When I was a young teenager my mother and aunt both read the book “Many Mansions” by Edgar Casey. This book, as my mother and aunt related to me, explained that everything in our present lives was a result of our past lives. Suffering and pain were atonement for past misdeeds, or perhaps part of a lesson designed to bring the soul to a higher plane of existence. Love at first sight, wasn’t. It was the souls re-discovery of past passion. Casey, according to my mother and aunt, believed that we journeyed though our multiple lives with the same set of souls, but in different relationships designed to instruct and purify. A current husband may have been a brother, or father or son in a past live. Or even a wife. I’m not sure if my mother and aunt, who were and are reasonably conventional, small town, life-long Congregationalists, actually believed any of this. But it clearly had great story potential, and they spent years gleefully discussing the current predicaments of friends and acquaintances in light of their likely past lives.

I was thinking of this while we were cleaning, because in my house, cleaning, as directed by my husband, does not simply consist of vacuuming and dusting. It involves re-arranging all the furniture in the house. Each time it happens the house is literally turned upside down, with chairs, lamps, books, papers, and brick-a-brac, from one room dumped into a second room, and then toted back. The large heavy items such as couches and bureaus, carefully lifted to avoid scratching the wood floors, and placed on the opposite side of the room. In the past I always got to help lift the larger objects. Recently my teenagers have been drafted, but I know that they will leave, and once again I will be alone in the house with my husband and heavy objects that need to be moved.

My husband doesn’t think this is unusual. “How else would you do it?” he asks. “How can you clean underneath the furniture if you don’t move it?”

This is not a new development. When my daughter was two, our babysitter was impressed when she asked if they had re-arranged the furniture. Of course she knows the word re-arrange, I said, It’s one of my husbands hobbies. Ten years ago, when we removed furniture from a decreased relatives house, I was appalled but not surprised, when my husband refused to leave until he had re-arranged the remaining furniture in the empty house.

I blame mother-in-law for this. I have never seen the furniture in her house stay in the same place for more than two or three months at a time. My mother may have believed in reincarnation, I tell my husband, but at least she provided a stable home life. Our furniture stayed where it belonged.

Our cleaning ritual is not complete until the room has been swept and vacuumed, and the furniture put back in place. At this point, my husband never fails to ask me whether I like the way it looks.

I never fail to look seriously at the new arrangement, as though I might have to live with it for more than a month or two, and proclaim, with sincerity and enthusiasm: “Yeah, I really like it. It looks perfect, just like it is. ”

My husband never fails to frown at this point. He paces about the room, looking serious. He puts his hands on his hips, and cocks his head.

“Nope. Something’s not right.” he says. “Lets try the couch over there.”

I have the awful feeling that I am living in a 1950’s sitcom. You know the one, in which a meek, brow beaten husband, in a vain attempt to pacify his overbearing wife, trudges desperately around a small apartment, a couch strapped to his back, re-arranging the furniture in at least 10 different configurations. It is not until the end of the half hour show, when the furniture has inadvertently been placed back in the exact place that it started from, that the wife finally declares everything to be perfect. It is at this point that my mother’s teachings come back to me. Could I have been that women in a previous life? Is it coming back to haunt me?

I ask my husband what he thinks of the theory of re-incarnation. “Do you think we’ve been together in past lives?” I ask him. “Do you think we’ve been married before? Do you think we’ll marry again in the future?”

He swallows and pales momentarily before recovering.

“Gee hon, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than marry you over and over again, in multiple lives spanning the centuries.”

I’m waiting too. I’ve got it all planned out. Now where do you think that couch will look best?

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