I have two bags of groceries, one in each hand, when I walk in the front door. I stand in the doorway and survey the wreckage.
No, we haven’t been robbed. The house looked like this when I left. If cleanliness is next to godliness, I’m living in the second, or possibly third, circle of hell.
I kick my way through the duplos and pick my way around the books and random pieces of paper lying on the floor.
There’s a pile of towels on the dining table waiting to be folded. Another pile waits on the sofa, and still another is on my bed.
The duplo bin is sitting in the middle of the living room, full of books; the duplos are shoved into a corner of my bedroom and scattered under and around my bed.
The boys have gotten hold of a marker and scribbled hieroglyphics on the arm of the sofa. Not that it matters. The sofa is falling apart: holes in one of the cushion covers require me to keep the zipper facing out, so the boys don’t pull the stuffing out through the holes.
In the kitchen, lying among biscuit crumbs, flour dust, and salt crystals is a plastic deodorant tube.
Besides the duplos and deodorant tube on the floor, there are pencils, crayons, markers, clothes, books, puzzle pieces. And trash. Used tissue and bits of paper, little pieces of tape, string, and is that a strand of dental floss? Really? Who lives like this?
I do, apparently.
I set the grocery bags on a bare spot on the kitchen floor and head back through the mess to get two more bags from the car.
Almost every older mother I know has told me at one time or another not to worry about the mess, has said that in 20 years I won’t remember the messes, that in 20 years I’ll be sad that my kids aren’t little and cuddleable anymore, that in 20 years I’ll wish I’d spent more time playing with them and less time cleaning. I believe them.
But you know what? Some days it is hard to look past the mess. Some days, like today, it is hard to remember what the mess represents: that I am blessed with healthy, happy, creative kids. Days like this, the second law of thermodynamics seems to operate in hyperdrive and the mess is overwhelming and I just want it to go away before I go stark raving mad.
I do manage to get the mess picked up – eventually – but only after I put the groceries away, after I make and serve lunch, after I meet a friend and her kids at a local museum for the afternoon and invite them to come over for dinner. I feel the heat burning my cheeks as I warn her that my house is a disaster.
She says, “Kimberlee, there’s no judgment here. You have four kids and a small house. I’ll help you pick up, okay?”
She does. Together we pick up duplos and garbage and books and puzzle pieces and clothes. She sweeps my floor. In less than 20 minutes, the house looks like a home again. Like my home again.
At least till the entropy strikes back.
On this first Friday of February, I am not grateful for the messes – never that – but I am grateful for the children who make them and for friends who help me clean them up.
I’m also grateful for:
2385. Mist draping the hills.
2386. Brown cow lazily walking on a hill opposite where I sit looking out the window.
2387. Limestone sculptures in Cathedral Caverns.
2388. Cave dark: I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face!
2389. My kind and generous husband, who is making dinner so I can journal.
2390. Tree skeletons against a palest pink sky tonight.
2391. Sunset on the trees, turning the branches rosy gold.
2392. Icicles hanging like daggers from a striated cliff face.
2393. Light in the treetops.
2394. Frost on the fields.
2395. Snow falling softly beyond the stained glass windows of the church.
2396. Chili pepper-infused chocolate, which, as Jack said, is “pleasantly spicy.”
2397. Snow piled thick on camellia leaves.
2398. The silence of its falling.
2399. Red berries, bright against a snowy gray sky.
2400. Luke’s happy scribbling; he loves pencils and paper.
2401. A clear night bright with countless stars: a moment of wonder shared with the kids.