Sunday, 14 October 2012

When Selfish Isn't A Bad Word

I threw away your father's toilet seat today.  It had been attached to a toilet about a week ago and before that to your father's backside for many an hour of solemn thought.  I suppose that had created some bond between them. A bond that was stronger than the bond given by the faulty hinge which had screamed for freedom. She was not suited to the life assigned  and she wiggled and slipped free from her station and fell from the toilet, cracking the seat she swore to protect.  Since her leap, she lay on the dining room floor, waiting for a post mortem. I threw her away.  I surrounded her with fifty magazines, that had too lain on the floor waiting for inspection.

You will probably remember this as the quiet storm.  Where daddy and I circled round and round each other in a cold cyclone, pushing the pressure up, picking up papers, sponging counters, putting away clothes, silently clearing the home of the clutter.

Your father had just finished another night shift, which meant night time routine had to be adapted and we needed to keep busy but quiet during the day.  You girls were brilliant for 3 and 7 but you were still 3 and 7 and the weather was terrible.  Had the weather not been terrible, we could have played in the park.  Had we had more notice, I would have made plans to visit friends. Had we not had Grandma and Grandpa coming for dinner, I wouldn't have felt the need to stay in the house and clean.

While I ironed, you both set up a tent in the hallway and played cops and robbers.  I ushered you back in to the toy room and shut the door.  While I prepared some food, you two decided to take the crying baby up and down the hallway.  I ushered you both back in the toy room and turned on the TV.  As I bleached tiles in the toilets and wiped away the grime. The littlest you came in crouching and hopping and I moved out of the way, so that you could do what needed to be done. I waited in the kitchen until I heard the sink throwing out water at the mirror, at the wall, at the pond developing on the floor.  I dried your hands, changed your clothes and ushered you back in to the toy room and opened the computer for the older you.

As I went through the papers and mail that went into that draw, I heard a scream, and I went to you girls, someone had accidentally kicked someone else.  I gave the injury a magical kiss, and set up a craft that I couldn't monitor because I had to season the beef and I had to peel the potatoes.  That is, until, I had to clean the paint off the wood floors that the littlest one of you was trailing in.   It was washable and I washed the table, the chairs, hung the paint soaked work of art, put the littlest you in the bath and changed your clothes, quietly, as your father slept.

I was soaked and tired and I stood up and looked in the mirror and felt that I resembled a worn tyre.  I remembered a story that Bubbie had taught me. It was about a dutiful wife and mother. Her Bubbie had told it to her, before she married. It was a story of the woman who kept a spotless home and spotless children.  Who spent all her money on the family before she spent on herself.  Who cleaned her house but didn't always have time to shower.  Who ironed everyone's clothes and if she had time she would iron her own, and because of this she had a beautiful home, beautiful husband and beautiful children.  One day her husband came in to the house and he had something in his mouth that he had to spit out.  He couldn't spit in the beautiful home, nor could he spit on the beautiful children, so he turned to his wife.  This is a very harsh analogy as your father described it and I explained it was metaphorical. If you are always last, giving yourself no value, no worth, neither will anyone else.  It is all right to take your turn.

I walked you back to the now destroyed room and finish sponging off the paint.  Plastic babies, puzzles, wet tea sets decorated the floor and I started to clean again.  Dolls in doll basket, puzzles (at least 33 of the 36 pieces that were found) back in the box and then I turned to the magazine case with its bulging, stretched form and I got a bag, a big bag, big enough to only make one trip to the recycling bin.  Your father's magazines about art, home design, politics were stained with yellow overlapping rings earned during our many late night conversations. While pages flipped by, your father and I gained ideas, many of which  would later take a position in your childhood memories of the home we created with you in mind. Maybe that is why I hesitated to throw them out. The stacks leaned against the sofa, fell over the magazine rack, fell across the kitchen table to the floor and lent itself to be slipped on. The week before, I told him that if they weren't sorted out they would be thrown out.  It was vacant threat, one I usually would not have followed through with, one that was made several times throughout our marriage, but today, I threw those magazines away and I smiled.  As I walked back through the door, I noticed the shine of a ceramic seat. I decided that like a wounded animal, it too needed to be put out of its misery and the mystery of why it didn't work, would never be found out.  I could live with that too.

Your father woke about three and smiled.  I smiled and passed him passing the baton and I went to shower and dress.  When I came back in to the kitchen. He was helping to prepare bread, he looked up and then down at the kneaded dough. He knew.  Later he mentioned it to me and I just said "Yes, Dear," as I finished putting on my lipstick and combing my hair,  "It was time."

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