Being the only anal-retentive, borderline-OCD person living in my home, and sharing that home with two less compulsive types, I’ve found pretty much all basic daily home maintenance to be quite challenging. Add to that the fact that our house is tiny, and you get the picture: I’m doing a lot of nagging about tidying up. Daily. Several times a day, sometimes.
To further complicate matters, with all the changes in our family's home, work, schedules, and income timetables, this past year has truly been an experience much like walking on sand dunes. Stepping, finding footing, then sliding awkwardly, stumbling. Making your way up a sand dune is quite a trial; the dune doesn’t look so high, nor does it look very steep, but don’t be fooled—it is both. Because climbing a sand dune is so difficult, a small gesture during that time means a lot. A proffered hand, a smile, a tiny sip of water. After all, little things mean so much more to you when you’re struggling.
So...ever-looming messes and housework, plus the sand dune kind of year we’ve had, results in a cranky Mel who incessantly chatters about picking up, putting away, where-does-this-belong? My boys, both big and little, are quite weary of me. They don't understand why I can't spend my days tripping over Legos and Matchbox cars, garden books and utensils, giant muddy boots and teeny soccer cleats.
The other morning, I was haranguing my son about the importance of clearing the floors, and telling him with some annoyance that I'd be vacuuming the living room while he was at preschool that day. I needed for him to clear the floor completely and make certain he'd left no tiny Lego pieces for the vacuum to eat. I had to remind him several times, as he got distracted quite easily from his pick-up tasks. When he begged to leave some of the creations he'd built on top of the Lego box, I reminded him that I needed everything up off the floor and that his many Lego creations wouldn't all fit on the box top. At that point we were hurrying to get out the door, and I recalled that his shoes were in the basement, so I grabbed our coats and we hurried downstairs to don footgear and climb into the car through the garage.
I abandoned my rant on clear floors. I drove the boy to preschool feeling sorry for myself, wondering why the entire world regarded mothers as invisible, benevolent forces to cook, shop, stock, do laundry, write lists, and vacuum. I wondered how quickly the universe would fall if mothers ceased to save the day, if they all chose to work for recognition instead of the martyr's pay of unappreciative consumption of services.
When I got home after dropping off my son, I scurried into the house, had another cuppa, and pulled the vacuum cleaner out of the closet where it lives. I plugged it in. I prepared to vacuum. And then, I saw it.
Perched in one of the living room chairs sat my son's Lego bin; piled high atop the bin's lid were all his carefully crafted little creatures. He'd balanced them all painstakingly before placing the bin in the chair. Or, perhaps he'd placed the container lid and then arranged the creations on top. It didn't matter, the details—what mattered is that he'd listened. He had heard me. He had not tuned me out, but had instead gone out of his way, in a hurried moment, to do just as I'd asked. Even though he thinks I clean too much. Even though he is oh-so-tired of my incessant whining about tidiness. He'd put the stuff where I wanted him to, even though he did not want to nor did he think it a worthy cause.
I almost wept, seeing that Lego collection placed with such care, up high.
Call me what you will, but that precise placement of Legos gave me a happy hiccup in a testy, PMS day. That small gesture was a gift from my child. Not only had he heard me, not only had he done what I'd asked, he had done it in spite of the fact that he thinks I'm silly. Now that, my friends, is true sacrifice. That box of Legos set so carefully on a chair means more than you know.