This is the house. This is the house that love built. Love with all its empty Kleenex boxes and sticky door handles. Love with its scratched table and worn chairs and smudgy windows. Love with half of a gallon of milk left in the refrigerator and no clean sippee cups.
This is the house for a mama and daddy and three small girls, and even if the arrangement of that shifts from time to time, it is still their home. The wooden floors carry the prints of their toes. The banister bears layer after layer of fingerprinting. The house itself is a failed crime scene – DNA everywhere. Everyone is to blame.
Everyone in this house blames love, and then rolls over laughing. There may be shouting one moment, and hugs the next. Love is a messy creature here, a golden retriever wet with rain, shake, shake, shaking, and the rain becomes blessing and falls like holy water over the whole of the works.
Nothing works in this house. The attempts at air-conditioning, for one. Order, for two. The silverware drawer latch for three. Someday it will all come crashing down, hot and humid, forks and spoons and knives everywhere, silver strewn across the black and white patchwork linoleum, and we will curse under our breath for sake of the girls and warn them, sternly, not to yank on the drawers. Again.
Again happens a lot. This is something we’re still getting used to. Parenting. Over. And Over. The same lessons patiently coming out of our mouths, slightly bitter after months of repetition. Be polite. But not just to be polite. Be kind. Respectful. Respectful means to listen with love. Start with listening. Please.
The littlest ones still say please without the p. Eeease. Eeease. Mulk, eeeese. We smile to ourselves, starting the game all over again. It’s important to be polite. Say please. Just. Say. Please. It’s hard to admit it feels rote.
But rote is routine, and routine is the lifeblood of this house. Routine is safe and healthy and puts everyone quietly in their beds by eight o’clock pm. Routine allows us to clean the kitchen one more time for the day, nesting the pans, wiping the counters. Routine is space, precious small though it may be.
Even routine startles at the computer when little feet shuffle down the stairs, blinking in the dark of the house. It holds loose hands with the four-year-old, ushering her to the bathroom, then carrying her back upstairs, a summer blonde head heavy on the collarbone.
All of this could feel heavy. The imperfect house, the rearranged parents, the sleepless child. Some toy hard and sharp underfoot. Something we kick away because it doesn’t belong in our path. Goodnight, nuisance.
Goodnight. Good morning. Move on. Move on because heaviness is something we are accustomed to, and weight is just something else in our arms. All of these hearts to carry. All of this love.