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Thursday, August 02, 2007

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Pardon this Mess

Photograph: utility room cupboard door, artist suspected but unknown

When my "dandelion" essay came out in Good Housekeeping last month, I was relieved that in the necessary editing for length, one anecdote had been abridged. It was where I described a friend's mother impatiently tossing out a bouquet of weeds I'd picked for her. It wasn't exactly a flattering portrait, and the original piece was detailed enough that a few people in my small hometown might recognize the woman.

I wrote that she seemed perpetually "short-tempered and put-upon". There was another incident when the family dog pooped in the house and in anger and exasperation she railed about the "dog shit." Although adults used that sort of language in my home all the time, there was something shocking about hearing it from someone I thought of as a very proper lady.

No, I am not embarking on a smear campaign to asassinate this poor woman's character (but if you were ever mean to me, you might want to send flowers and candy as a pre-emptive measure). I am thinking about her today with empathy, because I am also feeling short-tempered and put-upon. I have been haranguing my children most of the day, mainly for the unforgivable transgression of being under the age of ten, living at home, and unemployed.

Some days the relentlessness of this life wears me down. I woke up this morning determined to get our habitat in hand, and I just can't seem to get ahead, or even abreast, of the demolition crew. I walked into our upstairs utility room and discovered that over the weekend, it had been completely trashed. Paint jars were left open, brushes were stuck to paper, glitter and cotton balls were strewn across the floor. The kids had emptied shelves and cartons of baby memorabilia, scattering it everywhere. The utility room is supposed to double as my quiet place for writing poetry. I was so angry. Thank god the boys were outside. I might have grabbed them by the collars and rubbed their noses in the spilled glitter.

I went downstairs and outside to threaten a Pokeman card bonfire if I ever caught any of them in that room again without permission. They were in the driveway filling every container from the recycling bin with dirt, water, and school glue. I banished them and their "experiments" to the picnic table in the backyard, and went back upstairs with a trash bag to try and clear a path. On the way back from the alley where we keep the trash bins, I decided to drop in on the picnic table labratory. They had the hose out and were shoveling liquid mud out of a two-foot hole they've dug in the middle of the lawn. Onto the picnic table.

The baby, covered in mud, had to go in the bath. Moments later, I heard water sloshing over the floor, as he tried to bail the bathwater out of the tub into the toilet. As I wrote that sentence, he just walked by with an armful of unraveled toilet paper from upstairs, apparently headed to the downstairs bathroom. And...there's the flush.



I'm back. The toilet heard my prayers and processed what looked to be an entire roll's worth.

I have sequestered my toddler in the family room, imploring, "For the love of god, watch Wonder Pets."


Where was I? Oh, the relentlessness. The daily wear and tear. My mother told me about a come-to-Jesus moment she had when I was a toddler, she was pregnant with my baby sister, and she was trying to potty train me and housebreak our new puppy at the same time. While cleaning up the day's umpteenth consecutive mess (I'm blaming the dog), she said she had an epiphany: life is shit. She says she thought about just getting down and rubbing her face in it, really embracing the cosmic truth of it. I would feel sorry for her, but it was 1972 and she had guilt-free recourse to Valium and cigarettes.

My boys have a friend over this afternoon, and everytime I nag or shame the kids over their latest endeavor, I see his eyes widen a little. He's a bright kid. I really like him. I just hope he has no aptitude for writing.



Blogger Kirsten Michelle said...

i know these days...i've lived more then a few of them myself...they are the reason i come back over and over and over this space... where you write so well, about exactly the way things are!!!
i'm still giggling about your sheriff's back post ...
how priceless is that ;-)
i'm wondering if you'd mind my adding a link to your site from my page?

4:07 PM  
Blogger DarklyFey said...

Oh My God. I know that put upon feeling! I have three teenagers living at home. Lordy, but do I know *all about* harumphing my way through entire days of feeling extremely put upon.

You have my empathy. :)

4:07 PM  
Blogger passing as myself said... Hilarious! A new reader looking forward to more of the same!

6:54 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

i love the painting! you should take the door off the hinges and hang it in the living room. or better still send it to me.
you brought me back to that day in fogo. i was a lunatic!
i love your writing. it has an immediacy which allows the reader to share your experience as it is happening. a real gift.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Your mom hit it right - that painting is beautiful!! Eye of the beholder?

Thanks for helping me miss my kids a little less! I'm in Hamilton - 6000+ miles away from them!

9:34 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

I can very much relate to this post tonight. What a real treat. I am sitting here in my office which was "transformed" into an imaginary play version of a -- I don't know--war zone. I laughed out loud but I hope the sleeping boy did not hear me lest he think I did not mean business just a few hours ago.
Thanks for this.

10:40 PM  
Blogger ksutherland99 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Jonathon Morgan said...

i totally know those days. half of me is frustrated and exhausted, and the other half feels weirdly validated. like "oh, this is really hard -- i must be a real parent."

12:42 AM  
Blogger mommyneedsacocktail said...

I'll have to post the picture of the closet in the laundry room. Some was authorized. Except for the part representing the 9 inch roller.

And the roll of toilet paper. There is nothing else to add.

7:44 AM  
Blogger sgazzetti said...

Some days there is no way around it: being a parent is a contact sport, psychically at the very least.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way you capture the daily relentlessness of your life is nothing short of refreshing (as one of your readers, of course). You write incredibly well, channeling your thoughts in a smirk-inducing style that remains enjoyable to read.

Keep up the great work; thank you for allowing us to peek into your life. :)

1:53 PM  
Blogger jen said...

I had a stretch of three days last week when my kids were the same way - I'd finish cleaning up one mess, only to turn around and find they'd made another, or that one made the other cry, or some such catastrophe.

Some days only the tv will will give me a moment's peace.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Although my kids now are older now and most of their messes are more metaphorical than literal, I certainly remember those days when the time it took to clean one room was equal to the time it took for the kids to make a wreck of two others and begin to take apart the one being tidied. A friend of ours had a great expression for this parental predicament: it's like brushing your teeth while you are eating an Oreo cookie.

7:06 PM  

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