The Messes We Live With

My mother was a cleaning lady, cleaning other people’s homes. Our own home was never so clean – her boyfriends never picked up after themselves. Our own home was filthy, and I couldn’t stand to be there. My own home is spotless, not a blemish to be seen.

Now, I sit with my baby daughter in a recliner, surrounded by the detritus of an infant. I watch her little fingers gently tug a strand of yarn and painstakingly pull out threads. She sits on my lap as she does this and practices her newfound pincer grasp. Sometimes she stops and studies her little index finger. I study it, too. So small. When she’s done pulling out tiny threads from the yarn, she casts them off into a little pile next to us.

The little mess. A mess I can live with.

My brother is not doing much better. In and out of girlfriends’ homes, ever the boyfriend we grew up seeing. He’s always coming up with the next big scheme. I think he’s dealing drugs now, that the only “endeavor” he could try with consistency and success.

My desperation for cleanliness took me far from him, but  against my best efforts and like the dust the settles anew on the living room shelf, his clutter spills into my life.

That’s the big mess. A mess I can’t bear to live with.


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