Daniel and I walked in the door at 6 last night. Despite the fact that he had not napped that day (quickly becoming our new normal), I didn’t feel the usual stress to rush in under two hours to get him fed, into pajamas and have story time before tucking him in. Even though the adults in my household had grumbled about the time change and its potential impact on our routine, I liked that it was still bright outside when we came home. I felt calm, peaceful.
As I started dinner preparations, my peace evaporated. I felt tired as I maneuvered around three grouchy felines demanding their dinner, eyed the chaos of the refrigerator, and sighed as Daniel spit out a sweet potato fry after taking a bite of it (hey, at least he’s past the throwing food phase). I snapped at him for something so trivial I can’t even remember what it was, and his little face sort of crumpled, I felt like crying myself.
When Jimmy came home, he commented, “You look frazzled.” I started to launch into why and then I realized that I didn’t really feel frazzled. The evening was proceeding smoothly for the most part and we were on schedule. My day had been quiet and tolerable. Why did I feel so irritated? And then it hit me.
“I hate our house right now,” I told him.
I hate our house. I hate our house. I hate our house. I hate it. I hate that we are still living in chaos thanks to the damn carpet beetle infestation. Most of our clothes are in storage at the dry cleaners and the washable items we kept are in 3 laundry baskets haphazardly placed throughout the living room because we can’t put anything back into our drawers until we get the all-clear. Each night I move among different baskets to pick out an outfit for Daniel for the next day or pajamas for that night. Toddler socks jumbled together with towels and big people socks and tshirts and underwear, and I’m always afraid I’ll accidentally send along a pair of MY underwear in his bag to grandma’s.
And I wonder if houses can suffer from the Broken Window theory because as I look around, I see disorder and chaos everywhere. The sink overflows with dishes again despite being empty only two days before and there is a slightly off smell coming from the sink even though I can’t identify the source. The three bulbs in my flower beds that have survived the demonic squirrels that proliferate in my area are fighting for space with lush…weeds. My dining room table and counters are cluttered with mail, paper, receipts and preschool artwork.
The first thing I do when I come home in the evening is check the window sills for the adult beetles because Daniel likes to play there with his cars and trains. “Lady bug! ” he exclaims, and I rush over to kill it, feeling a tiny niggle of remorse because bless their hearts, the damn things are trying to get out; they don’t want to be here either (and it is their larvae that destroys our clothes, not the adult beetle). I’m embarrassed by my house and the chaos in which we’re living (because we aren’t filthy people I promise), yet when I try to figure out where to start, I just feel overwhelmed.
And then I wonder who is mirroring whom because when I think about it, I too feel cluttered and messy, barely put together and in need of maintenance. And old and unlovely, with gray hairs appearing every day and permanent bags under my eyes.
I want to be able to wave a magic wand and empty the house of everything , make it all go away and start over as I did with my new work computer last week: when the IT guys asked me what I wanted brought over from my old machine, I said, “nothing,” and it has been freeing to have a blank slate.
At times my house has felt like a sanctuary but now it most often feels like someplace I don’t want to be. That night, I wanted to scream.
A small voice said, “Daddy, make pizza with me.” Jimmy went over to the kitchen table and helped Daniel with the mise en place of his felt pizza toppings. I joined them, and we giggled as we put the sauce on the triangles upside down and called peppers “plus signs.” Jimmy and I watched as Daniel carefully put a slize of pizza on a plate and put it in the oven to bake.
It was only 10 minutes, but it was the best 10 minutes of the day. The house was silent except for our playing, and everything felt calm and peaceful as we focused on nothing other than helping our little boy make the best darn felt pizza ever.
Can 10 minutes be enough? Last night it was. I feel calmer today, and I know that our family life (and house) will return to “normal” eventually. We’re still reeling from the blows we’ve been dealt recently. One step at a time. That beautiful 10 minutes gave me grace to take pause and acknowledge the small moments. I need more of those moments, but it is my job to seek them and for now, that’s enough.