Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Homemade Mess

It’s been quite a stretch. The Christmas and New Year holidays were followed quickly by the punishing onslaught of snow and freezing temperatures. Then, just as March revealed a possible light at the end of the wintry tunnel, our household fell into illness mode, from the sinus infections that struck us all to the mysterious ailment that slammed my wife, landing her in bed for 10 days. As we turned the corner into April, everyone finally started feeling a bit better. Now, as our Spring Break begins, there’s the task of catching up on all the work that needs to be completed, from grading papers to drafting lesson plans to completing free-lance writing assignments.
            All of which leaves very little time to address the house in which I live. So as I work at home this weekend with my wife and girls away for the weekend with family, I push the laptop away for a second and glance around me. And I must admit, what I see is not pretty. It’s something we’ve all witnessed at one time or another. It’s just, well, it’s what you’d call a mess. A mess that, in its own way, chronicles the four punishing months that have ensued since we were singing Christmas carols and decking those halls back in December.
            I begin in our sunroom, which seems to be inviting all seasons as it sits between our kitchen and backyard. I see the softball-sized, red-and-green Christmas balls that were used on our front lawn (for what, I’m still not sure), and the extension cord that lit our evergreen in the backyard for the holidays. It took two months for the snow to uncover that cord before we could retrieve it in March, and it might take another two before the cord goes back in the basement tool closet. Next to that cord, I see leftover lawn and leaf bags, unused bottles of liquid bubbles, metal marshmallow roasters, a pair of winter gloves, and softball equipment. On the table out there is an Easter egg-dyeing kit, and beneath that table is a gingerbread village kit, and beside the gingerbread village is something called a “Flower Pot Cupcake Baking Kit.”
            Things have to get better in the other rooms; it can’t be that bad all around. And it’s true, the rest of our house is more liveable. But wow, how things accumulate. In the kitchen, our daughters’ January birthday napkins sit beside our younger daughter’s first-communion certificate from March. In the living room, a stack of birthday cards (also from January) lie beneath the winter-themed travel tissue packets, which themselves lie beneath the never-to-be-used-Target-impulse-purchase Easter lights.
In our study, which doubles as the girls’ playroom, a three-month-old “Super Size Crystals” experiment sits on yet another hutch, while a magnetic bulletin board holds pieces of paper that read “St. Patrick’s Day” and “Sale! Come Now,” followed by a reminder to those playing a long-forgotten game of make-believe store that “Whoever is the first to spend 6 dollars or more will get the mystery item!”
            I think we’ve all won that promotion, girls, as this house is nothing if not a harbor for mystery items. A jar full of mushy green goo (more “Super Size Crystals,” perhaps?) A new doorknob, to replace the one I had to break down when my older daughter accidentally locked herself in her bedroom a few months ago. A pair of ice skates beside a pair of shorts beside a hand-cranked flashlight beside a magnifying glass beside a CD copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
It is just too much. At the landing beneath the stairs to my daughters’ upstairs bedrooms, a pink pig Pillow Pet sits beside a board game titled “Pop the Pig.” It’s a fitting pair for this time of year, when families like mine feel like we’ve been living in pigsties for just too long.
I guess that’s why they call it “Spring Cleaning.” I’ll get to it one of these days.