49: Trying Times and Dirty Dishes

49: Trying Times and Dirty Dishes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Trying Times and Dirty Dishes

I cleared the table and stacked the breakfast dishes on top of the dinner dishes left in the sink from last night’s feast of macaroni and cheese with carrot sticks. I braced myself for the cold, clumpy feeling of the dishwater then plunged my hand deep into the sink, searching for the plug.

“Yuk! Why didn’t I do these last night?” I asked of who knows who. The only people around to hear me were my six, five, three and two-year-olds and my six-week-old baby.

It wasn’t just the dishes. The dryer had gone out that morning and sheets were drying over every available chair and table, to the great delight of my sons who were playing fort-town all over the house. I would have hung the sheets outside but it was ten degrees below zero.

The living room had exploded with toys, and the way things were going, it would be lunchtime before any of us were even close to being dressed. The flu that had run through the family had finally caught me after six nights of little to no sleep caring for each of my children’s needs and comfort. It caught me the same day my husband, recovered and healthy, flew out of town on a business trip.

The hot water bubbled up in the soap-filled dishpan, and it encouraged me a little. “I’ll have these done in no time....” But before I could finish my pep talk, my newborn began to cry.

I changed the baby’s diaper, stepped over the basket of clean clothes that had already sunk into wrinkled neglect, pulled the sheet off the couch along with the full collection of my sons’ horses and corral, and settled in to nurse my baby.

Idyllic moment? Hardly. As soon as I sat, books were tumbled into my lap. If Mom was sitting, she might as well read to us, was the common thought. So balancing the four toddlers, protecting the baby from their commotion while trying to turn pages with no hands, I began to read.

I read over the phone ringing and over the TV set clicking on and off at full volume because one of them was sitting on the elusive remote control.

I read over my pounding headache, around the errant thought of what to make for dinner and the doorbell ringing. The doorbell ringing! Oh no! All but the baby and I were off the couch to the door before I could grasp a moment of hope that whoever it was would give up and go away, never to see me at my unkempt worse.

“Grandma!” The children chorused while doing the Grandma-is-here dance of anticipated hugs and candy.

Grandma coming was always good news for all of us, but it couldn’t be my mother! It couldn’t be today. She lived three hours away. She never just dropped by. What would she think? I scanned the room and sighed. There was no way to recover this, no way to quickly put things to right.

Cold, fresh air rushed in ahead of my mother making me realize how stuffy and sick my house smelled.

“Cindy?” My mother called my name, startling the baby and making her cry. I could hear my mother’s uneven steps as she navigated around and over the things on the floor.

“Cindy?” she said again before spotting me among the Spiderman sheets.

I was stricken. I was embarrassed. I had forgotten it was Thursday in the sameness of each day. I had forgotten that my mother had planned to stop in on her way back home from the city.

“My, oh my, have things gotten out of control around here,” she surveyed the room and started laughing when she saw my gowns drying on the bouncing horse with my nursing bra forming a hat over its head, its ears sticking through the drop down flaps.

Her laughter filled the house with the first ray of sunshine to make it through the wintery gray of the last mucky week.

I started to giggle, then to laugh right out loud before I teared up in my fatigue.

My mother cleared a space for herself beside me. “Cindy, weren’t you raised in my home?”

I nodded, because no words could get around the choking of my tears.

“Was my house always perfect, always clean?”

I shook my head no.

“Did you think I was a failure as a mother or as a homemaker?”

Again I shook my head no.

“And I don’t think that of you. I have sat where you are sitting now,” she grinned at me while she reached over and pulled a toy horse from under my hip.

We chuckled together.

“Cindy, I can tell you one thing, and you listen to me,” her voice became solemn with the depth of what she wanted to say. “These are the days you will smile fondly on when the years have passed and your time becomes quiet enough to roam the memories of your heart.”

I recognized the love and truth in her words. I wrote them on my heart and contemplated them when my mothering days were both calm and sunny and hectic and never ending.

Now, the years have passed and my time has become quiet enough to roam my memories.

And when my daughters and daughters-in-law are pressed in and overwhelmed with the making of their families and homes, I remember and I say to them, “These are the days you will smile fondly on.”

~Cynthia Hamond
Chicken Soup for the Every Mom’s Soul

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