A few months back, my daughters, suffering from boredom (THANK YOU COVID!), and giggling from the other room, called out, requesting my presence. Usually, when my name is echoed at a jarring decibel level, one of three scenarios is the culprit: a fight has ensued, something is broken, (hopefully not a bone), or one or all my children want to plead a very weak case for an impulse purchase on Amazon. Readying myself to head into battle, I turned the corner into the office and was rather surprised at what I saw. More accurately, I was surprised at what I did not see. No crying or angry words, but two girls hunkered down laughing and pointing at the computer screen. “You gotta take this quiz Mom!” my younger daughter, Kennedy, commanded, pulling me in the direction of the rolling chair her sister promptly vacated. I stared at the monitor, thinking perhaps the parental control thing my sister is always after me to get is not such a bad idea. “Come on, it’ll be fun!” my oldest, Nora, chided.
I began to answer a series of rather benign questions with the click of a mouse. Based upon my responses, the results, with scientific certainty, definitively pinpoint which celebrity I once was in a past life or with which Muppet I had the most in common. Details are unimportant to this story. Important to this story is the fact I arrived at a question during this very serious internet quiz I will never forget. Not so much for its content, but the answer my children so readily supplied. It read: What is your favorite hobby? Before I could click reading or watching television, in unison, the girls answered: CLEANING! Kennedy piped up, “Mama LOVES to clean!” Cleaning wasn’t even on the list of choices for the quiz. In reality, I loathe cleaning; the calming effect of the end result of cleaning is what I appreciate. The very thought that my offspring considered household chores my predominant leisure activity was enough to make my blood run cold.
The degree of cleanliness of my surroundings has become a type of practical gauge of my emotional well being. Not to say that we usually live in filth, but when I can see my reflection in the bathroom sink, when I run out of hangers because all of the laundry is clean, or my son can account for all his Lego’s, there is almost always some unresolved issue of mine belying the fresh layer of Mop and Glo. I spend all my energy into making sense of the external instead of sorting out the mess of emotion within me. At the time, it’s safe to say I would have had no qualms about hosting a dinner party for eight on my bathroom floor. I was not proud. I was sad and confused, but mostly, I was downright tired. (I am happy to report, with the help of teaching when the school year has been sponsored by Corona, the excessive cleaning has significantly slowed.
I took the time to carefully trace the origins of these unwelcome and unexpected feelings to a cardboard box at the top of my closet. Sometimes I can pilfer through the relics of my childhood with fondness and other times, the sight of a scrap of paper yellowed with age, is enough to ponder my life choices for a week. As I began to unearth the fossil record of my past, I paused to take in photos I’d seen a hundred times before. I found some ancient Quality Stamps, wondered whether I should throw them away, but ultimately, I just decided to shelve them – again.