My wife made a lovely dinner tonight of roast chicken and vegetables and bread. Part of our partnership is that when she puts herself out like that, I’ll do the cleaning. It’s a good deal. I eat well. I like to clean too.
After the meal and the wine, I’ll spend an hour or so putting the kitchen back together and taking out the trash. When the place is looking good, I’ll celebrate with a dish of ice cream and enjoy the feeling of a clean room. I know a kitchen doesn’t stay clean, but it’s still nice to see one for a while. It brings back my sanity - for the moment.
It lasts until I step out into our dining room and sitting room area and am standing among the toys. Ah, the toys. The toys. The intractable toys.
TOYS. TOYS. TOYS. BACKFLIPPING TOYS.
Sometimes looking at the sheer number of them makes me feel as if they’ve marched in through the cracks in the walls or out of holes in the floors and ceilings and occupied the house like some fantastic Darwinian breed of beetle.
Dolls, cars, games, balls, trains, kits, blocks, puzzles, Legos, teething rings, a bicycle, a scooter, a soccer ball, a miniature garage, a make believe kitchen stove complete with miniature food, and a legion of stuffed bears and rabbits and alligators and cows. You get the idea. TOYS.
“Gaa! Ouch!” the little pieces are the worst on bare feet.
It makes me feel like that awful grumpy mayor from the Santa Clause is Coming to Town Christmas special, Burger Meister Meister Burger, when I have to step gingerly over the toys.
“Make them illegal! Put them behind bars!” or whatever he says to ban the toys from the village of Sombertown.
Part of the problem is that any toy that comes as a set (the devils work that) is scattered the minute the cover comes off the box. There is not a single deck of cards, or a puzzle or a kit of blocks that has survived intact. I expect the pieces will be found by the many generations of families that will live here after my kids are grown and off into the world of adults. Perhaps even archeologists of the future will someday descend down on my little future rubble pile (having collapsed under its own weight) to divine the significance of the Polly Pocket pieces, or the Sassy Dolls, or Thomas the Tank Engine trains.
“What does it all mean!” I can hear my brain shout in bewilderment when I look down at the sheer chaos. Sometimes I say it out loud.
“Why don’t we get a Roomba?” my wife has suggested several times, meaning the robotic vacuum cleaners that have become popular.
“I think we need a WALL-E,” has been my reply. I’m only partially kidding.
Most frightening of all is that my children are right at home amid the mess. They just wade in like a couple of otters in a river and frolic and make merry. I can never tell if they simply don’t know any better or if it’s me that’s lost some capacity for living in this state.
And sometimes the mess does get the better of me.
“Why did you say barn animal?” my daughter asked recently when I suggested that we clean up before the real cows, horses, pigs and sheep left the country and started living with us. Her little confused question told me that I’d taken my angst a little too far. It’s not all that important to be neat.
I felt bad. It was a sour thing to say. I tried to recover.
“Daddy’s just being silly,” I said and helped her spill the toys I’d been collecting back on the floor, “Just have fun, Okay?”
She smiled tolerantly and went back to her fun, “Daddy’s silly,” she repeated. She might have patted me on the head.
At the end of the day I suppose we’re lucky. I’d be sad if we couldn’t afford toys for the kids. We also have a line we keep. We don’t do video games or faux cell phones or computers for the kids - there’ll be plenty of time for that.
And I’m sure I’ll miss this time someday. We’ll give it all away and find out years later that we relieved ourselves of the only Polly Pocket checkerboard pattern poodle skirt in existence - alas.
But I'm too tired for that cleanup anyhow. Tonight I’ll just head upstairs with the mess intact. The kids will have one less thing to do in the morning when they get up. They can just dive in and have fun.