Our kitchen sink is piled like the discount bin in a store at which only desperate masochists or alley rats would shop. We have mismatched coffee mugs, pasta bowls stuck together with parmesan, cutting boards clinging to last night’s watermelon seeds, empty olive oil bottles, take your pick! Although I could swear I had it spotless at this time yesterday, the only proof that civilized folks occupy our kitchen is the vase of freshly-picked African daisies… sitting cheerfully in a pile of crumbs.
Shall we move on to the living room? Here, you can find the ruins of several Lego empires, dismantled by four children in the space of an hour and arranged strategically so as to be tread on by bare feet when least expected. While removing plastic palm branches from your soles, you can observe my mending pile which is second only to my ironing pile, the abstract art that is our formerly beige rug*, and what’s that? You need a tissue? We have one in every nook and cranny of the room for your convenience, and most of them are only slightly used!
* For the record, beige rugs were never meant for use by children, dinner party guests, or people with feet.
Bolts and nails and who knows what else is scattered on the floor around our bulimic tool box in the utility room—the same room that mysteriously accumulates bird poop and produces spiders the exact size of my fleeing dignity. Every single toy with the ability to hold water or to stir water or to be dunked in water without electrocuting anyone is drip-drying above the tub in our bathroom. Papers waiting to be sorted into overcrowded filing cabinets are covering every sit-able surface in our bedroom. Dust bunnies are shacking up with cobwebs anywhere they think they can get away with it (which is pretty much everywhere these days). I’m trying not to think about it.
Of course, trying to block out the din of Messes, Messes Everywhere only makes them squall louder. The ever-annoying shoulds like to join in too: You should be scrubbing the dishes! In fact, you should have done it already! We shouldn’t even be having this conversation! I’ve always found the shoulds both logical and persuasive (in their ever-annoying way), but I can’t give in to them this afternoon, and here’s why:
My children are napping.
Did that sentence read with the weight of a divine decree? If not, try reading it again. Slower this time, maybe in Morgan Freeman’s voice.
My children are napping. In about half an hour, they will wake up and ask me to snuggle the sleep away and then clamor for shows or snacks while I say no, no, and bluster around getting supper together and changing for work and getting the girls presentable and fed and all three of us out the door on time to pick up their dad so I can hand over parenting duties and win a little bread myself and return home to kiss sweet faces goodnight and then plop down on the nearest available surface. And as the day’s energy slowly ebbs out of my toes, it won’t matter to me whether or not the kitchen is pristine; the dishes will likely survive until morning. I won’t care that our living room has been taken over by Legos; it’s instant playtime for the girls tomorrow. The feral utility room won’t even register; who needs to do laundry anyway?
I’m discovering that at the end of each day, my delusional drive to be June Cleaver evaporates, and the only thing left is a pulsing, present need to be me—
a mama who treasures her daughters’ imaginations and sleep-drenched hugs
a wife who loves undistracted time with her husband more than just about anything
a friend who can’t wait to write back, call back, come over
a soul-searcher who meets the sacred in unexpected ways
a writer who feels ridiculous even considering the title but who begins shriveling as a mama, a wife, a friend, and a soul-searcher when she doesn’t allow herself the gift of words—
which is why our kitchen will have to live in a squalor for a little while longer.
My children are napping.