The year was 1985. I was five years old and my little brother was two years old. My dad was out of town for work, as he often was in those days, so I was confused and a little scared when we were coming home in our white Ford Taurus station wagon and I saw the the door connecting the garage to the house slowly close shut. I told my mom what I saw and with a twinge of panic in her voice she instructed us to stay in the car.
After thinking about what to do she walked over to our neighbors, Bob and Betty’s house, and asked Bob to please take a look around before we all entered. He was happy to as the three of us waited patiently in the driveway.
A couple of minutes later Bob came out of our house, his eyes wide, his face as white as a ghost. “What?” My mom asked, scared to hear what he had seen in there. “I’ve searched the whole house and I can assure you no one’s in there,” Bob said. “Ok….” my mom said, confused. “Anymore.” Bob finished. You’ve been ransacked.” “Oh my God!” My mom shouted. After she composed herself and Bob promised he was sure no one was in there anymore, we all walked slowly into the house. Bob first, then my mom, myself and my little brother.
We stood and took in the scene: soiled diapers strewn on the floor. Stains on the couch. Dirty dishes of half eaten meals on the countertops. A limp doll hanging over the arm of the sofa. Trucks, trains, airplanes and micro-machines littering the floor. Cheerios crunched into the carpet.
Bob picked up the phone and immediately called 911. He was on the phone with the cops, calling out a litany of questions over his shoulder to my mom when she told him to hang up the phone. “What? Why?” Bob asked, shocked. “I don’t know how to say this,” my mom said, sheepishly, “but we haven’t been ransacked… This, this is just how our house looks…” Bob stared at her blankly, the phone hanging limp in his hand. “Steven’s out of town,” she continued. And… this is embarrassing. Please just hang up the phone.”
I die. So bad. So good. I think about this story, a Power family favorite, whenever I walk into a room in my own house that looks like this:
Sometimes it makes me feel hopeless, like giving up or giving in, I mean, why try? Really. Then I remember my mom’s house looked like this when she was raising two little ones three years apart. Just like mine. With a husband who wasn’t home most of the time. Just like mine. My parents now live in a spotless house. Marble on marble on travertine. A museum really. It gives me hope that one day I’ll live in a house that doesn’t have an overturned hot pink puppet show tent and two paper plates held together with tiny multi-colored clothespins (Ava’s “art”) or yellow, green and blue streamers hanging from my white plantation shutters (her “decoration”).
Just not today or tomorrow or the next day or anytime soon…