If my week were a photograph, it would show a tiny corner kitchen. Crusty dishes swell like a wave out of the sink–a new black plate already chipped on one side, five (thousand?) saucepans stacked like Russian nesting dolls, a spaghetti server caked with dry tomato pulp that might as well be rubber cement for how easily it will come off. Brown-rimmed coffee cups lurk on the stove, under the dish towel, behind the water filter–self-medication for restless naps. That filmy tangle of plastic wrap in the corner is left over from Wednesday, when it shut out air from my morning and stuck my afternoon in all the wrong places. That gummy wad of Cheerio crumbs, smashed peas, and stray Playmobil pieces? Used to be the floor.
In the high chair, just visible to the side, sits a tired baby adorned head to toe in rice mush. Her cranky pout could be due either to boredom or to the angry red hives popping up around her mouth from tasting formula. From where I stand, it looks like a prescription: Exclusively breastmilk, five times a day, until college.
I am the one crumbling by the sink with stringy hair and yesterday’s makeup, looking exactly like those moms I used to pity. That white patch on my shoulder is spit-up, naturally, and that green glint in my eye is all the bad words I want to say…
…but won’t because of the short girl tugging on my shirt. It’s not evident from the photo, but she is chattering in Ancient Mongolian: “Fleeshle waboom botchgoin mickaiwogo toks meegwam clombish lobblelobblelobblelobble popcorn for breakfast?” She may have been wearing those stripey pink socks for three days straight now, but her mother declines to comment.
The photo shows grease splatters on the range hood, rainy pockmarks on the window, and dust bunnies curled in the least-reachable corners. It shows the nuclear fallout from last night’s souptastrophe. It shows the disparity between sticky note to-do lists and hours in a day. What the photo doesn’t show, however, is the front door, just out of sight around the corner. It doesn’t show the moment tonight when that door will open and my husband will be home again. It doesn’t show Natalie shrieking “DADDY!!!” (in English, praise be to Webster) or Sophie bursting into giggles or me sinking into his arms like a damsel quite suddenly out of distress. It doesn’t show the dirty dishes fading into the distance or smiles eclipsing my lack of makeup… but who cares? This is the point when I tear the photo into Cheerio-sized bits and toss it into the mess that used to matter.