I’m sure that my home is here somewhere under all of this stuff, and so I sit in my attic bedroom and try to imagine it.
There. There is a chair under that mound of coats, smuggled upstairs for a Christmas Eve party (oh, the appearance of first-floor cleanliness!) and never returned. Next to the chair is “my” desk, which is a bit of a joke around here. I can barely see its edges under the wrapping paper, tape, and children’s art supplies that show up as soon as I create a clean surface.
How many markers-without-caps can one family collect? I’ll let you know once our experiment is complete.
The bins of kid clothes are stacked in the corner, over-flowing with the next season and the next size. Our oldest daughter has grown an inch in two months and I vaguely remember setting aside extra-long pants in September. But which bin? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not up for the search right now. And then I remember. “It doesn’t matter,” I exclaim, “because it’s boot season!” The blessed boots will cover her ankles until I find those pants.
Our brand-new kitten bounds up the stairs, and I sigh-and grin- as she pounces into the room. Who gets a seven-year old a kitten for her birthday? Crazy people, that’s who. Our two older cats awake and glare from the bed. They are not amused. I can hear her tiny collar bell jingling as she weaves her way through the piles, enjoying the tunnels and hiding places that all our stuff creates.
On the second floor there are hurried footsteps and I hear our housemates’ bedroom door open and -slam!- as the kids head for the bathroom, trying unsuccessfully not to wake their parents. Their loud whispers are a familiar morning sound. Our two families have been living together for almost three years now, with four kids (now ages 7, 6, 5 and 5) between us. Currently their family of four is living in one bedroom, as they prepare to move into a newly renovated house down the street and we make room for my newly arrived brother-in-law.
Never a dull moment round here.
The kitten hears the kids-now all four are awake-and she leaves her grumpy sentinels behind, tumbling down the stairs toward the sound of laughter. The kids are beside themselves because there is a two-hour snow delay. “Two more hours to pla-ay!” one of them sings, and I hear the kitten’s bell as she joins the party.
The elder cats have re-positioned themselves on the bed and are sound asleep. “Must be nice,” I say. I look around again, readying myself to join the fray downstairs. “I guess this is why grown-up cats don’t need coffee but grown-up humans do.”
I head for the kitchen, passing the piles of clean, unfolded clothes and trying to calculate when I’ll have time today to “finish” this endless task.
Then I stop.
Suddenly, I remember that the piles will not always be there. Suddenly, I remember that home is a seasonal place.
I think of the kitten tunnels, the ever-growing kids, and our parade of housemates, transitioning in and out, but always leaving their mark. “And it’s good,” I declare over the laundry, “very good.” And in this moment I believe it. In this moment, just for a brief moment, I settle into my life as it is today. Here. Now. And not forever.
“Pancakes!” my husband calls, and the kids are a herd of elephants coming down the stairs. I pass the kitten on my way to the first floor, and she is purring loudly. “Well here you are, little one,” I say as I stroke her fur, “Welcome home.”