The other night when I got home from teaching, ready for bed and bad TV, my husband started to sand the kitchen ceiling. From my position under the covers I could see white specks of sheet rock begin to coat the pots and pans hanging from their hooks, the stove top and burners (minus the one that had caught on fire that we’d thrown into the back yard the night before), the baskets of apples my son and I had picked at the orchard, the cat food, the coffee maker and every other conceivable surface within 100 feet, including Stan himself.
I got up for a bowl of store-brand granola with expensive organic whole milk (which I will not be entering in the food journal I stopped keeping last Friday) and padded across the plywood floor we let our son draw on with a sharpie until we get our REAL floor- that mythical unicorn of bourgeois renovation I’ve heard plenty about but am not sure will ever actually materialize. My footprints were visible behind me as if I had just tracked across a pristine sandy beach on a tropical island. I poured my granola, resolved not to say a word and pretended instead that we live in the out of doors. On a beach. In a snowstorm. God forbid I impede progress.
Because our house—like our mental health and our marriage—is nothing if not a work in progress. The front porch, living room, backyard, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and tool shed all under different states of construction. Merge this with my thwarted longing to craft, an allergic reaction to cleaning, a deep inner desire to hostess and an almost primal urge to feed people and make them feel at home—even in a home in which I feel at turns like a queen and the beggar on her knees outside the castle.
Recently, in one of my 12 step groups, I sobbed, “I want to get it all together but I just can’t! Everything is such a mess. I feel like Shack Martha Stewart!” A friend suggested I start a new line of items for the home available exclusively at the Dollar Store. I-Tried-to-Clean-But-Couldn’t-Air-Freshener. Too-Bad-We-Only-Have-Four-Places-To-Sit Placemats. Whoops!-I-Burnt-the-Hell-Out of -Dinner-After Dinner-Mints. I could even make Turn Your Hovel into a Home DYI video based on scavenger hunts through the attic for art to hang on the walls and the arrangement of potted plants almost guaranteed not to die. Truly, they do wonders. We named ours Plant A, Plant B and Bob.
Because I don't want my shame and confusion about how to run a home and be a mother while having a full-time life and a slew of creative projects stop me from ever letting anyone into the house again, I feel I should go ahead and set the record straight now.
If we invite you over you may have to sit on the arm of the ratty leather couch we found a few year's ago. You may get snagged by a booby trap and fall into the dungeon with the child-sized spider crickets. I might serve you the plastic baggie of poop brownies I inadvertently invented 4th of July 2013. Nothing you see will match, is probably second hand and may even be broken. If I apologize for the state of our house I am breaking my New Year's Resolution to stop apologizing for the state of our house. Because more than likely you did not come over to be awed by my ability to mop. Chances are you are more interested in connection and conversation than a shellac of cleanliness. It could be that you like strong coffee in a mismatched mug even if chaos and clutter reign around us. I just have to keep remembering that.