Death by housework

This morning I awoke with a jolt to find myself on the couch, still in my coat, with Girl from the East wrapped in my arms. She, too, was still in her jacket. Two hours earlier I had arrived home after a crosstown trek to Girl from the West’s school.
Instead of firing up the coffee pot and making breakfast, I just gave in to my exhaustion and flopped onto the couch, pulling an afghan over both of us. In the gauzy light of pre-dawn, we both slipped easily into a deep sleep.

Then, I awaken in my house-that-is-not-my-house, but more closely resembles a hovel. Translate that to my worst nightmare: trash heaped everywhere, moldy bathrooms, bugs scuttling about, leaks.

And in some oddly symbolic way, all the windows are deliberately blocked. One window is painted over. I recoil in horror, wondering how I’d overlooked this. Another window sash was raised and toys and clothes were stuffed between the panes. In a panic, I run from room to room, hysterically trying to fix whatever is wrong, like the angry fish in the cup yelling at The Cat in the Hat.

I hear the squeak of the deadbolt lock turning on our back door, which means the husband is home. In his hands is a big cardboard box. Symbolic of course, of a job layoff. He opens his hands and lets the box drop to the floor, blasting dust and debris in all directions.

Overcome with exhaustion and despair, I topple to the floor, sobbing as my throat swells shut. I attempt to speak, to say what is wrong, but can’t get out any sounds. 

Husband bends to grab his box and turns to head up a staircase right before me. A staircase I’d never noticed before. Right there the whole time. The door at the top opens and sunlight spills down the steps. I creep up a few risers to get a better view.

Above is a gleaming, beautiful kitchen with liquid-shiny tiles and clean counter tops. There is fresh fruit in bowls, vibrant plants, sparkling windows. This sliver of a view hints at the comfort and order that must make up the rest of the home.

But I cannot go any higher, I’m told by a figure who stands at the top of the stairs. Someday, when I’m ready to make some changes, I can live up there. Until then, I must stay where I’m at.

So, I’m thinking:

A: I need to get more sleep at night.

B: I need to drink less coffee.

C: I need to stop watching Swiffer commercials.

Careful what you say …

When my Girl from the West was a babe in arms, I cooed a promise into one of her little pink ears:
“Mommy wants you to grow up to be whoever you want to be. I won’t be one of those mean mommies who forces her daughter to vote Republican or chastises her for not choosing the convent as a career choice.”

If my baby grew up to be a bald, lesbian shot putter, that would be OK. If she aspired to be a minimalist performance artist who wore nothing but sticks and grass and chose to live in a refrigerator box in the town square, great.
It’s not that I want her to grow into someone whose lifestyle puts her at risk for ridicule and persecution. But I told myself I’d let the blossom unfold as nature intended. No making a righty out of a lefty or anything.

However, life doesn’t always play out that way, does it?

Say your babe in arms edges closer to adulthood and suddenly begins taking on all of the characteristics you abhor? Say you are an atheist and she decides to become a Born-Again Christian. Say you are vegetarian and she decides to take up bow hunting? Say you are artsy and edgy and she prefers to try out for the cheer squad?

Get the drift here?

I see my baby spinning out of my orbit so fast I’m not sure I got the flight plan before she launched.

I can’t help but recall my teen years. What hopes did my parents have for me? What was the sound of those dreams as they collided with the reality of who I was becoming? I know one of the biggest collisions had to do with my continued failure to subscribe to their religion. To this day, almost 30 years after leaving their church, I still get subliminal messages that they are not pleased, thank you very much.

Thankfully I have a number of friends who’ve traveled this bumpy road of parenthood. Their advice to me is to stop asking so many questions already! I’ll get more answers if I listen.

So this is my challenge of late: I must cross the razor’s edge. I must keep some distance, lead by example, have eyes in the back of my head and keep my flippin’ mouth shut — most of the time.