Thursday, October 18, 2007

Coming Home

I'm back from another trip, this time to Kentucky. More school visits. My husband works hard to keep things going while I'm gone, and I have to give him his props: he does a pretty dang good job. I came home to children who were alive, basically clean, and in good spirits. The laundry and dishes were done. The fish had not died (I'm very fond of this fish, despite the fact it has remained nameless for over a year now; it always seems so happy to see me when I walk into the room). Nobody had gone to school lunchless or underpantless. In short, a job well done.

But the fact remains, that my husband, while possessing a healthy respect for cleanliness, cares not one whit for tidiness. He does not do tidy. He does not notice when things are untidy, when the school papers (checked homework, field trip notices, Read-a-thon sheets, Weekly Readers) pile up on the tables and under the tables, when the mail teeters precariously on the edge of the kitchen counter, when the rinsed recyclables seem to have taken up permanent residence beside the sink. Not even on his radar. So my job upon returning from my travels is to tidy up, room by room.

I don't mind tidying, though when I'm away, I always have grander visions of what I'll do when I get home. This time I thought maybe I'd finally whip that attic into order. We have a walk-in attic off the second floor, a wonderful and dangerous thing. In our old house, we had no storage space; here, we have the attic and a garage (detached, no less). The temptation to just chuck everything in there that doesn't fit in the closet is just too great to be resisted, and resist it we don't.

But suddenly, on the road, I envisioned an attic of order and light. An attic where there is a corner devoted to children's toys that are only played with on occasion, and a corner for the Christmas decorations, and a neat stack of file boxes against one wall ...

I remember when I read Anna Karenina a few years back, one of the scenes that struck me most is when Levin is riding home on the train; he's been away for a while and now he is filled with hundreds of plans for what he'll do the minute he arrives. He'll fix this and plant that and get the whole place in ship shape order. When he finally does get home, his energy completely evaporates and all he can do for a couple of days is wander around aimlessly.

That's me. Get me out of the house, all I can do is come up with big plans for the house. Return me to the house, all I can do is tidy up here and there and wonder when I can sneak in a nap.

So today I tidied. The attic remains lumpy and dumpy, everything strewn hither and yon. It is safe for another day--or probably another month. But the living room has been voided of clutter and all the Star Wars paraphenalia has been returned to its rightful owners, and the ten billion catalogs that arrived during the three days I was out of town have been recycled. That's about what I can do for now. That attic will have to wait.

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