My house never looked like those photographs in magazines.
There were always dirty dishes in the sink and laundry overflowing from the hamper.
The kitchen cabinets were full of those plastic cups that we picked up for free at ball games and expos, and if more than three people were eating at one time, the silverware didn’t match.
Not that it was “silverware” anyway.
And that was assuming you could clear away the books, junk mail, and all the other miscellaneous litter from the dining table to have an actual meal together in the first place. Most of the time, everyone just ate in the living room – usually from a pizza box or a drive-through bag – while the kids argued over what to watch on TV.
When company (dared to) stop by, there was a mad rush to shove all the clutter under the couch cushions or hide it behind the shower curtain, and I “dusted” the coffee table with my sleeve as I stumbled toward the door.
The bathroom sink was buried under a jumble of toothbrushes, hair dryers, make-up, deodorant and acne cream, and the edges of the bathtub were lined with at least four different bottles of shampoo, plus conditioner, body wash and three razors … with a damp bath pouf hanging forlornly from the faucet.
The kids’ rooms could have been graded on the EF scale, or maybe the Richter. Tornado or earthquake: That was the biggest question, except for maybe “What is that substance that appears to be alive and growing in the corner?”
Clothes scattered everywhere, bookbags spilling their contents all over the floor, stuffed animals staring desperately at their surroundings with shiny, shoe-button eyes. Posters thumb-tacked to the wall, curtains askew, closet door open to reveal a crazy tangle of hangers, clothes and shoes. The bed is barely discernable as such, looking more like an enormous heap of blankets and pillows.
Thank goodness the doors were still on their hinges. Keeping them closed was my only hope for sanity – and the kids’ only hope for survival.
And yet, when I think back on those years, the messy house is not what I remember.
I remember Family Game Night, when we gathered around a board game, laughing and talking, rolling the dice and counting out spaces, cheating like mad but not really caring.
I remember listening in silence and handing my kids a tissue as they poured out the ache from their broken hearts.
I remember cheers and hugs as good news was celebrated, whether it was successfully wobbling down the street on a bicycle without training wheels, a good grade that had been earned the hard way or a team that had won a championship.
I remember the Thanksgiving the cat jumped on the table and started nibbling on the turkey, and set her tail on fire when it drifted too close to a candle – just one of dozens … no, hundreds … of “Remember when?” stories that we still share from the years my children lived and grew in our house.
Lived and grew – and eventually moved – from a house that was never picture-perfect, never beautiful …
… but always, our home.