(Just pretend it’s Monday, okay?)
We’re giving the girls’ playroom a makeover because it’s time. I’d become incapable of entering the room because I was afraid of what I’d find – mostly, kids lying horizontally on the trundle bed, eating crumbly food, watching inappropriate television, while dirty socks, moldy shoes, shin guards, and unidentified objects lurked beneath, and random art supplies stained the walls and carpet. In a word: disgusting, or two words: health department.
I put on my hazmat gear two Sundays ago and started the clean up. Before long, I came across the photo albums. The next thing I knew, it was March. It’s not my fault. They’re like heroin, those albums. As soon as you start looking through them, you can’t stop. And there’s no methadone equivalent. You either quit cold turkey because your family has fallen apart without you, or you grow old looking at pictures of your young self, or photos of your children when they were babies. Where the hell did the time go?! Damn, those girls were adorable, and boy did Miss T have a big head.
If you’re serious about getting anything done around the house, don’t get near the photo albums. They’re different than iPhoto, where I’ve stored countless pictures, because iPhoto wasn’t around when Goldie was born or when Bun Bun got her first tooth or when my hair was still naturally red. How many times have you come across a picture of your former self and thought, “I was so thin”? And then contemplate the work it would take to be that thin again? We all looked like puppies in those photos, scrubbed and fresh and young. It’s taking everything in my power not to get up now and get back to thumbing through the pages. Honestly, they’re that addictive.
I also came across the board books I refuse to dispose of because they defined my early years as a mother. Miss Spider’s Tea Party was the first book I read to Goldie. I can transport myself back into the corner of our old couch, Goldie curled up in my lap, tapping the pages of The Big Red Barn, urging me to read it ‘again, again’. I won’t let go of Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny either. I always got a lump in my throat reading that one: “If you become a bird and fly away from me,” said his mother, “I will be a tree that you come home to.” Sniff, sniff. Moo, Baa, La, La, La. Is Your Mama a Llama? Sendak’s Nutshell Library, Boynton’s It’s Pajama Time, Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There’s no way I’m throwing away Ian Falconer’s Olivia, even if the dog snacked on its corners. I have my brother’s collection stacked neatly together – Metropolitan Cow, Friday Night at Hodge’s Café, The Pink Refrigerator, and nearly 14 others (look him up – Tim Egan).
There were CDs among the mess, too. The one from our first Music Together class is staying. Goldie sang “The Old Oak Tree” sitting in her car seat hundreds of time. “Silly Songs” by Sesame Street. “Broadway Kids”. And then Francie Kelley’s “Wake Up and Go to Sleep” really brought me back. Ten years ago, we sang along to the first track, “Ce Ce Te Nana” endlessly. When we were invited back then to a mini-concert at the local bookstore by a mom at the girls’ new school, I scrunched my face when they started singing that song. Turned out Francie Kelley was the mom and our world got smaller. My daughters fell asleep to “Kiss the Moon and Stars Goodnight”, whether they were home or in the car. Last week, after coming across all this nostalgia, Francie sent me her new CD for review, “Where Do You Want To Go Today?” and after listening, I can tell you I want to go to Africa, Hawaii, Jamaica, and back to Ireland. She writes about them all, with a sound toddlers and new moms will love. I sniffled again after hearing the short last track, “Mother’s Prayer” – you’ll have wings of your own; may they bring you safely home. Stab me in the heart.
On “Modern Family” recently, Clare is caught inhaling baby Joe’s newborn smell. I get it. Sometimes, it’s nice to go back, to recall the beginnings of parenthood, the potential, the hopes, even the madness of it all. Sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of the playroom, I was reminded of whom my daughters were, and then knocked off my feet by what they’ve become (or maybe it was the flattened soccer ball I stepped on). My eighth-grader Goldie was just accepted to high school with honors and scholarships. I am blessed.
The room was painted over the weekend and the carpet cleaner is coming today. The furniture will be different. The girls are ten, eleven, and thirteen – past the term ‘playroom’ or ‘playdate’. (I never once said ‘inside voice’.) We’re moving forward, so what do I call it now? ‘Den’ has been taken. ‘Rumpus room’? I’m open to suggestions.