DIARIO DI MAMMA
I live in utter disaster. On most days, my house looks like a bomb exploded, and it was full of little boys’ stinky laundry, more Lego pieces than you could find in one of the stores, bread crumbs, and pieces of paper from kids’ practicing their scissor skills. The dishes are piled in the sink. The stovetop is thick with grease and grime that desperately needs removing (and might require a sandblaster). Garbage always seems to need to go out. And can we talk about the bathroom? I don’t even want to go in there for fear of having to face life’s most difficult question of late; is that Nutella or poop on the wall? Seriously, which is it? No matter how hard I scrub, the place always smells of sweaty gym socks and tomato sauce. (We’re Italian, so at least we’ve got that.)
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, before my son and niece and nephew were born, I had nice things. Really. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place. Back then, I lusted after hotel-quality sheets in crisp white and fine china serving platters. I got giddy over my sparkling chandelier in the dining room and silk drapes in the living room. Every week, I would meticulously dust and vacuum the couches. I had a Waterford crystal bowl sitting on an end table, out in the open for all the world to admire. Not once was it at risk of falling. Today, it stands behind closed closet doors on a shelf too high even for me to reach.
When I look around, I can hardly believe I ever had that straight-out-of-Better-Homes-and-Gardens look or that Good Housekeeping demeanor. As I first began to lose control of the place, I felt uneasy. There was a queasiness at the sight of those toys scattered and piled and lined up all.over.the.floor. They were – err, are – everywhere. I even missed all that dusting and vacuuming I once did. But I am living in a new normal, the world of motherhood with young children. There’s nothing I can do about it. This life is messy, often akin to a post-party frat house minus the beer. Still, I’ve learned to embrace the look of a war zone. Here’s why:
- My house is our hangout. I have relatives and friends with bigger and better houses than I’ll ever have, than I will ever let myself dream about actually. They are tidy and lovely. Their picturesque views, professional kitchens, swimming pools, and game rooms are the stuff of designer legend. Sometimes, I’m jealous. But then I curl up on my couch and think about all these walls have seen. We make the sweetest memories here because we open the doors to all, and create excuses to unite. There was the time my cousin from Australia stayed with us to surprise my grandfather, who was already showing signs of age and illness. There was the time we celebrated my son’s birthday with 80 relatives packed into the driveway and backyard. There have been Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves for the ages. Wine has been spilled. Glasses have been broken. Hearts have been touched. Friends have become family. Family has become friends. Fun has been had by all.
- My house is our comfort zone. In the days after my miscarriage, my only friend was this house. I closed myself in. I hugged the walls and worshipped the couch. From my window, I watched the leaves dance in the wind and searched for answers. I cried, and my home – this humble and loving house – dried my tears. When my grandfather passed away, we gathered around my dining room and remembered why we were hurting so much, what he meant to us, and what a glorious pain in the ass he was from beginning to end. We’ve embraced one another in our worst moments. We’ve confessed to one another and forgiven one another in this very house. Life happens here. Frankly, life was never one to be neat and simple. It’s complicated, untidy, and sometimes downright ugly.
- We are growing up here. My son and his cousins are here together just about everyday. They are 6, nearly 5, and just turned 4. I wink and they are a year older.Those toys on the floor and the bread crumbs they are dropping are all signs of this precious time in their life and ours. These are the symbols of innocence that are all too fleeting. Their job is to play, and the disaster means they are looking to get promoted to that next phase. In the not-too-distant future, I will find myself looking around my pristine living room with everything in its place once again, and I will burst into tears for what I have lost. I will miss those chubby little fingers pulling at my heart, the butterfly kisses just because, the zany outbursts, the silly laughter, the most beautiful song of their gentle, rhythmic breathing as they sleep, and the sweet pain of a 40-pound child lying still on my chest.
And, so, for now I embrace my mess. I cherish it for all it symbolizes. I love this mess because I want my place to be the place to celebrate, gather family and friends, and grow up. I want it to be a retreat for all who enter. I want it to be our rock when life is a storm. It doesn’t have to be pretty. I’d rather we actually get to live here.