Issue 45



                This morning when I walked up to my Think Tank, I thought I had stumbled out onto a wasteland.  A desert of clean carpet confronted me.  I found a clear path to my writing chair.  No characteristic odors rose to greet me.

I felt like I was in a foreign country.

                I’ve spent the last 30+ years perfecting the art of the mess, from the subtle practice of knowing which pile of clothes on the floor are clean and which are dirty to locating exactly where a scrap of paper is in a room where I can no longer find the floor.  Now the time has come when my son can crawl and rummage through my caches of treasure, searching for deadly paper clips to suck on or important notes to tear up.  I’m still in shock.  I thought I had more time, kind of like how people trying to quit smoking can nurse that last cigarette for months.

                “It’s not fair,” I declared to Rebecca indignantly, “if my room has to stay clean, then so does Skylar’s.”  Rebecca smiled the sweet smile of victory.  She said it was very generous of me to offer to keep Skylar’s room clean since he couldn’t be expected to keep it clean himself.

                Skylar, of course, loves the new arrangement.  He gets to relish all the joy of trashing his room without any of the hassle of having to clean up.  I watch as he crawls over to his shelf and pulls whichever toys he wants – usually all of them – down to the floor.  When playtime is over, he watches as I crawl under his crib, straining to reach that last block.

                I used to think Skylar’s life was so much more limited than mine.  He only has so many toys, and it’s not long before he’s back to one he has already completely analyzed with his tongue.  Yet he approaches each experience of his life with fresh eyes.  To my son, the house is an adventure, and with crawling, that adventure just got more expansive and exciting.  He savors every nuance of his curiosity, up to the height of my knees.  And there’s no such thing as leaving a project unfinished anymore.  For years the CD rack did just fine on the floor in a corner until just recently when Skylar reached for one CD but pulled in just the right way to cover himself in a jewel case blanket reminiscent of how snow falls off the roof in a huge pile.

                I should be clear that I harbor no ill feelings towards my son over this arrangement. I find Skylar’s method inspirational: he sets out straight ahead and takes on anything in his path, be it a basket of laundry, a rocking chair, or a closed door.  Everything he finds, even yesterday’s toys, is fresh and intriguing.  I get a wonderful vicarious joy out of watching him explore and destroy, even if I do have to clean up after him.

                Some days I could watch him for hours on end, but the responsible side of me remembers that I have to get back to the daily grind, that there are piles of messages waiting for me, piles of things I have to take care of, piles of issues I have to deal with.  Piles.  I used to never have to think about what I’d do each day.  It was all piled up right in front of me.  Today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, were already defined for me.  And by the time I cleared a pile, a new pile would have piled up that needed tending to. I didn’t even have to think about what I had to do.  Most days I’m afraid I didn’t.  It makes me wonder what happens to us when we grow up, as we learn to talk, to walk, to drive, to take care of ourselves, to do anything we want.  Sometimes the world becomes a small, tiny place where it’s easy to let life become a tired rerun of coming home from work and eating pizza while watching videos. 

                I marvel at this little man in my life, who knows so little and yet so much.  As I watch Skylar explore, I think of the clutter in my life, the things I leave out and in my way that demand my attention because I have to walk around them until I deal with them.

                But that was the old way.  I look around my clean room. I always thought sitting at an empty desk without any piles to tell me what to do would be terrifying.

                Sometimes it’s wonderful to be wrong.


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