The Blessing of a Filthy Carpet
The carpet was a mess. Pet stains. Food stains. Life stains. Along came a great deal: the Happy Feet carpet cleaning company offered to clean four rooms for $100. Staircases, extra. So I picked the four worst rooms. Both staircases were a nightmare.
In preparation, I had to pick up everything that could be moved and put it someplace else. I had to vacuum thoroughly, especially around the edges of the rooms.
On Wednesday night, I began to move things. One huge box of my journals. Another box of photographs. File baskets. Piles of books, mail, and bags of bags. Dumbbells. A cricket bat. Perfect push-up gadgets. An exercise ball. A medicine ball. Packs of stickers. Dozens of computer cables and several power strips. I had clearly lost track of how much stuff we have.
On Thursday morning, I told the children to grab everything they would need for the entire day and bring it downstairs. Homeschool materials. Clothing. Cell phones. Headphones for ipods. Books to read. Journals. Cameras. Textbooks. Bibles. Pens and pencils. The computer they use for homeschooling. My computer.
Do you need all this stuff, Gail? Really? Really?
I decided that I would not replace any boxes or piles of anything until I had gone through it all. No matter how long it takes, I told myself, I'm gonna go through the files and boxes and get rid of the junk.
Several discarded armloads of graduate school readings, old magazines, indecipherable ramblings, dusty exercise equipment later, the second floor of my house is far less cluttered. There are fewer piles. There is less to stumble over in the middle of the night. A few pieces of furniture have been rearranged. A rug has found a home in another room. I rediscovered a few goodies that I had forgetten about, and I am going to repurpose a few goodies that I no longer need.
I pulled out one of the journals I kept during my first trip to Spain back in 1986. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have loved that country since the first time I set foot on its soil - even though the conductor on the overnight train that transported me from Spain's border with Andorra to the city of Madrid groped me in the middle of the night. I didn't sleep much after that frightful encounter.
I pulled out the journal I kept during the summer before Kristiana was born. Until I began to reread those cracked and yellowing pages, I admit that I had forgotten what my life was life before I had children. Since the noisy arrival of my darling daughter in the wee hours of the morning of October 30th nearly sixteen years ago, my sleep pattern has never been the same.
Looking back, I don't think I would trade those sleepless nights for nights of uninterrupted, adventure-less, childless sleep. I wouldn't trade the filthiness of our carpet for a pristinely kept home. I would trade the piles of dirty dishes, the hampers full of dirty laundry, or the bathtubs with their dirty rings for an unused, empty, untouched home. My home buzzes and beeps and spills over with messiness because this is where we have grown up together, grown closer together, and are growing towards each other every day. This is where we laugh and cry and learn and teach one another all kinds of things. This is where we play catch and tennis and Last Word and bingo and poker and canasta and chinese checkers. This is where we sit at the table to eat and sit in front of the television to eat. This is where we make up stories and read stories and write stories. This is where we sing and dance and trip and fall and create art. This is where we make promises and then break them. Whenever we return home from our various adventures, the first thing we do is take off our shoes because this blessed home of ours is holy ground. Apparently, we bring messes in on our socks and our bare feet because, after all, we still need to get our carpets cleaned.
No, it isn't always easy or smooth or perfectly choreographed, but this is our stained, dusty, topsy-turvy, disorderly, unplanned, unpredictable, delightful, spirited, active, funny, exhilarating, bountiful, beautiful life.
At first it seemed like a good idea to get the carpets cleaned. Then the hassle of cleaning up the place before the cleaners threatened to dampen my spirits. Being reminded by the rediscovery of dozens of journals and hundreds of photos of the amazing life I have lived makes all that inconvenience more of a blessing than a hassle.
This is my life.
And I am enormously grateful.