Something’s been going on in my home that no one would ever have bet on… least of all me.
It’s unprecedented. Wild. An upheaval, in fact.
I am cleaning house!
I am upending laundry hampers and baskets; turning duffel bags inside out; clearing out closets and dumping out dresser drawers. I am even — take a steadying breath — making piles of stuff to donate or otherwise get rid of!
Why all the furor? Well, it boils down to the same two things that are at the root of nearly every change in my life. To use terminology borrowed from that great work of literature, “The Cat In The Hat,” it’s all thanks to Thing One and Thing Two.
Thing One — my firstborn — was also the first to return to his university apartment after visiting his dad and me over the holiday break. No sooner had he arrived back there than he texted me: “Mom, could you look in my room? I can’t find my multicolor, vertical-striped sweater.”
I remembered the sweater because I remember wondering why skinny tall guys get all the vertical stripes. I looked for it in his room. I looked in his laundry hamper. I looked in his closet, and under his bed. No luck. I texted him the bad news.
“Have you checked the coat pile by the front door?”
Ah, so he noticed that. Yes, I used to hang up every coat and jacket, but they just fell off their hangers every time I wrestled anything out of the hall closet, or jammed anything back in; so I gave up and just kept a pile of outerwear draped artistically over a table near the door.
But to humor my child, this time I borrowed hangers from everywhere else in the house and hung every single thing up. Alas, no sweater lurking anywhere in the pile. Then I checked inside the coats already hanging, just to make sure nothing was hiding inside a coat, sharing its hanger. Nope.
I began to feel like a prison warden. I insisted on emptying every laundry bag going into or out of the basement. I even checked INSIDE the washing machine and dryer, though each of them had an undisturbed layer of dust on top.
I checked every laundry basket in the house, including my own. I checked my own dirty sock pile.
Then a glimmer of hope: Two sweaters had fallen down, between Thing One’s dresser and his clothes hamper. I took a picture of each with my cell phone and sent them to him with a query: This one? This one?
No and no. Darn it!
Then Thing Two — the younger brother — got into the act. From his new apartment, he texted me, “Have you seen my winter gloves and scarf? I can’t find them.”
I went into overdrive. I can’t expect my child to go through what might still be a brutal winter without gloves!
I checked every suitcase in the house, full or empty, even those leftover from my trip to Israel.
I checked under every bed and sofa. I found a lot of spiders — big ones, cranky at being disturbed — but no sweaters.
I even went out to the garage, to see if the missing items had mistakenly found their way into the “give to some charity” piles.
Finally, I remembered that there was a laundry hamper in the back room, little used since the bygone days of muddy boys coming into dinner. Maybe in an absent-minded moment, I had stuffed something in there?
There were no sweaters or winter gloves. What I did find, to my chagrin, were a set of sheets — balled up and waiting to be washed — that I had accused Thing Two of losing, some time ago, at college. I sheepishly smuggled them downstairs to be washed before anyone saw them.
When I came back upstairs, I heard my husband talking to someone on the phone. Did we have company?
“Excellent work,” he was saying to somebody. “She’s straightened up every pocket of chaos in the house!”
There was a pause, then he said, “Oh, you can wear the sweater — just don’t let there be any pictures of it on Facebook. And tell your brother the same with his gloves and scarf: Out of sight till you can get back here and pretend to ‘find’ it all. Oh, and to the both of you: Thanks! I owe you.”