Saturday, October 15, 2011

Small World, Small House

We live in a small world; I live in a small house.

The recent earthing of a bus-sized satellite has me thinking about just how to clean up the orbiting rummage in the space around our small world.  This celestial scrap problem has me engrossed because the rummage from the little satellites around my small house has become exorbitant, too.

It wasn’t always that way, though.  Clutter has a way of appearing seemingly out of nowhere.  When it does, it spreads, and tolerance for muddle has a way of creeping up on you like middle age or the Jonas Brothers.

Shortly after we were married, my wife and I were invited to a coworker of hers for dinner.  I was taken by all the kid stuff scattered about their living room. 

Growing up my brothers and I rarely played in the living room.  Our indoor play was relegated to our bedroom, and when it became untidy, my mother would make us clean it under the threat of the wooden spoon.  As a teenager with a proclivity to disarray, she would simply keep my bedroom door shut.

If I recall correctly, my wife’s coworker referred to the mess as a medley child-dom or some such rubbish.  I called it chaos.  On the way home, my wife and I both vowed if we ever had kids – and after that visit with the screeching, yelping, slobbering, and biting we were a bit doubtful – we would never, ever let our living room become a playroom.

Today, five children later, I expertly slalom the living room like an Olympian.

Since we’ve been outnumbered, and our once pristine territory conquered by our satellites, my wife and I realized the only option was retreat.  So we decided to turn part of the basement into a wine cellar. 

I took some lattice, a few two by fours, and some molding and, along with my meager carpentering skills, crafted a wall where we could store our wine.  I illuminated it with track lighting and hung some vines and plastic bunches of grapes I got at a craft shop.  We rehabbed an old workbench we found left out on someone’s curb to store three different types of corkscrews.  I installed hangers for glassware.  We set up a couple of caf√© style tables, hung poster sized reproductions of paintings, and wired up the room for sound. 

It was such a lovely space that my wife and I would eat late night dinners down there, just the two of us, after the little ones were tucked in bed and the older ones were transfixed to the television.

One day, while sitting in the living room, I heard a crash.  When I reached the bottom step to the basement, I saw shattered glass.  Apparently a glass had fallen from the ceiling rack.  I constantly tell the kids not to run and jump in the house, but, I resolve myself, it’s only one little glass.  Then I looked up and noticed that there were boxes on the floor:  hand-me-downs in waiting.  There were plastic tubs in which we keep holiday decorations piled three high in front of my wall.  Boots.  Piles of boots.  There had to be at least 23 pair.  There were crates overflowing with toys.  Old toys, new toys, toys I don’t remember ever seeing before. 

What had happened?  Had it been that long since I’d been down there?  No, of course not.  I am regularly down there.  I keep my tools under the basement stairs, and I recently had to snake out the toilet – again.

Perplexed, I came up from the basement and into the dining room.  There on the table were – what was that? – Transformers?  I looked over at the bookshelf:  Cars?  Action figures?  A baseball mitt?

Do we become so acclimated to the gradual derangement of our surroundings that it takes a collision to recognize the problem?

Calling my wife, I ran up to our bedroom, the final refuge, only to be greeted by R2D2 sitting on my desk, mocking me.

Not here as well, I said to my wife who was folding clothes.  Our eight year old was at the computer earlier and must have left it there, she told me.  She picked up the synthetic cyborg, placed it on top of one of the several piles of clothes, and left the room.

If the experts at NASA ever figure out how to clean up the space junk orbiting our small planet, I’d like them to let me know exactly how they did it because I’d like to get a little bit of my own space back, too.

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