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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

The Vacuum Cleaner Bag and Kaftca

The yellow light on the lid of my vacuum cleaner warned me that it was time to change the bag. I had a new box of bags in the basement and didn't have to worry about whether Whole Foods or Mariano's had bags in stock and could have them delivered.

I opened the lid of my Meile Classic and lifted the bag full of cat hair out of the belly of the vacuum. I had to tug harder than normal but didn't worry; I'd changed bags dozens of times.

I thought of dumping the about-to-explode bag into the wastepaper basket in the bedroom but thought better of it. Not very hygienic. I remember locking my fingers under the blue piece with a hole in it and swinging it like a small foam pillow.

I couldn't clasp the new bag into place. The arrows pointed down, but no matter how many times I tried, the blue piece didn't slide anywhere except down the side of the guts of the vacuum. Okay, I'd watch a video on YouTube. It looked easy enough to do in my sleep. I wondered if there was a piece missing or broken. I thought of calling the housesitters who'd stayed in our home while we were vacationing in Mexico. But wouldn't they have told us? I mean, my husband dropped a sizzling, greasy pan on the kitchen rug in the casa we rented and burned a hole that even Mr. Magoo could see. The rug would have to be replaced. He called the owners. These things happen.

But I figured all I needed to do was to find the old bag. Maybe I'd yanked too hard and broken the piece myself. I mean, everything is made of plastic these days. They don't make things like they used to.

I couldn't find the bag. Where the hell did I put it? I checked the basket in my office, the two in the kitchen, the one in the basement. I looked in corners, under the bed. Maybe I'd dumped it a garbage can in the alley. I tromped over the rain-slick brick walkway to the alley. Nothing. I know we seniors have a loss of memory thing going on. But a big old vacuum cleaner bag!

I walked upstairs and downstairs at least five times. Around and around I went. Still, no bag. Maybe the Vacuum Cleaner Bag spirit had whisked it away. Maybe I was losing my mind. (My husband thought it was the latter.)

By then, the glutes on my right side were screaming. Stop! Give it a rest! Look again tomorrow! It's not as if you lost your wedding ring or a thousand bucks.

That night, I had one of those dreams in which you get caught in the same cycle over and over again. No matter how hard you try, you can't stop the repetitive scenario. In my dream, my husband and I had been given thirty minutes to take our things and leave our home forever. I ran from room to room, grabbing the important things: the black folder with all of our important papers; my computer; a few pieces of jewelry; all the clothes I could throw into a suitcase; and art. Which African and Mexican masks? Paintings? Photos? And where was the cat?

We loaded our valuables into our two cars and got the hell out of Dodge. And then we got the hell out of Dodge. Once again, we got the hell out of Dodge. Around and around. The same important papers, computers, jewelry, clothes in a suitcase, and art. Oh, and the cat.

It was Kartcaeque.

Now, I'm not a therapist, but it doesn't take a Ph.D. to make the connection between the saga of the vacuum cleaner bag and my dream. And it isn't a brain teaser to make the connection between the vacuum cleaner bag and the situation we all find ourselves in. No matter how many times we go around and around, attempting to process how the Pandemic has forever changed our lives, we feel caught in an endless cycle. We are in mourning. We have trouble sleeping.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, author R.O. Kwon wrote, "Nearly everyone I know has been thrust in varying degrees into grief, panic, hopelessness and paralyzing fear. If you say, "I'm so terrified I can barely sleep," people may reply, "What sensible person isn't?"

I may have had the vacuum cleaner bag dream without the Pandemic. But, still, I need to clean with "Clorox wipes and masks and to disinfect my own mind." (Andrew Solomon)

I bet you do, too.


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