Tonight I went upstairs to check on the girls and couldn’t stop watching them in their sleep – both so peaceful, so snuggly and sweet, the little one had her hands thrown up in complete surrender to the night’s slumber. I walked back down the 33 stairs, past the second floor laundry with nearly empty bins, through a vacuumed and mopped and dusted hallway, and started the first floor robotic vacuum even though the floors seemed clean enough. E’s backpack was by the door, the dishwasher was nearly through its cycle with clean bottles for school tomorrow, and I got out the ingredients to make blueberry scones, a family favorite around here. As I put the scones together, pushing each blueberry into the buttery dough, I thought about making another list on this blog of ten things that I am loving right now like I did a long time back. I’d list all of the above – the clean of a house that just hosted a little dinner party – that’s my favorite kind of clean – the “company’s-coming-over-kind-of-clean”. I’d list the dwindling laundry piles, the stacks of folded onesies and footed pj’s, sleeping angels who have been so for hours, freshly mopped floors. I’d list the look of the bench by the door that holds the purse and the backpack and the workbag and the diaperbag – stocked and ready, requiring no last minute dashes five minutes before school begins. I’d include the sound of a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t require me to push it, and the dust that I empty from it that I never even knew was there. Clean countertops with a handful of ingredients and a kitchen that smells of freshly zested lemons and all-purpose flour. Temperatures that make it comfortable enough to still walk barefoot in the house on those clean floors but cool enough to make you want to snuggle up under the covers next to another warm body later that night. Clean, comfortable, cozy. Those are what I’m loving right now.
And then M comes downstairs, frustrated to the core, and announces that he’s off to Lowe’s to get something that he needs to fix the sink – the simple repair that should have taken a few moments before his weekly basketball game, but has instead snowballed into two and a half hours and an errand nightmare. “Why is nothing ever simple?” he asks as he puts on his shoes and grabs his keys. I’m sorry for the annoyance of maintenance that real life requires, how it puts things on hold that you’d much rather do. Two minutes after he’s left I smell something odd, at first sweet, but quickly putrid and then I hear a soft thudding noise and a steady drip. It takes me a moment to locate the source, but I finally see it. E’s perfect pumpkin which we moved from the front porch to the table was changing before my very eyes. Still firm and round and orange on the outside, it had carefully masked the turmoil within. A leak had sprung from one side. As I scrunched up my nose in disgust at the smell of the liquid and reached for some paper towels to clean up the mess, the pumpkin exploded. Like the tales you were told in elementary school about that kid, that real kid, that once just spontaneously combusted and left nothing behind but a pile of smouldering ashes – that was what was happening to our pumpkin (minus the whole fireball sort of thing). It was absolutely disgusting, and the foul-smelling liquid poured out of it, and into every crevice of the kitchen table and then drip, drip, dripping onto the floor from a dozen different locations. I was so glad that he had already left for the hardware store – I thought if he were here he just might cry. After he returned to a cleaned up kitchen with a lingering smell I told him just that. He said that he wouldn’t have cried. He would have kicked that pumpkin right through the window. I tried to imagine cleaning up that mess, bits of glass among the smelly orange slime. A few days ago we received a letter from the IRS pointing out a mistake we had made on our tax returns. The tax returns that we had spent hours upon hours upon hours on before filing, painstakingly precise is my husband, and extremely organized to boot. Somehow we had failed to report $12.00 – perhaps interest on a small fund somewhere – who knows? That $12.00 omission tipped us from one bracket to another, reducing one of our major deductions by over $500.00. The irony was infuriating. To be so close to that tipping point (unaware, because who really understands where that tipping point is?), and then over the edge and owing more money. It would have been very clever to have purposefully stayed just barely under that line – like the friends I travelled with that would claim $399.00 worth of goods on their return flight to the states – challenging that $400.00 limit and the patience of the customs officials. Instead we were blissfully unaware, and now we get to give ourselves the gift of additional taxes for Christmas. Our roof is leaking. Work is slow. Swine flu. Diapers. Death. It’s easy to slip in the opposite direction of happiness, sometimes with something as simple as a leaky faucet or a rotting gourd.
But tomorrow there will be warm scones rising in the oven, we’ll brush our teeth at the upstairs sink for a few days while a new faucet ships our way, and we’ll listen to our six-year-old play her violin until she has blisters on her fingers because she loves it so much. We’ll read some Sandra Boynton to the baby and chapter books to the bigger one and eat fancy chocolates that were a gift from a friend under a blanket on the couch in a house that no longer smells like pumpkin. And think of ten things that we are loving right now with no effort at all.