In the syndicated cartoon “Zits” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman the challenges of raising a teenage son in modern society echoes the challenges of generations past. Be it a room so messy the closet and bed are lost in the clutter, responsibility side-steps, or bewildering social behaviors, parents and child continue to grow within the relationship. Once in awhile understanding even makes a showing. In a “Zits” cartoon from January, the first three frames depicted the mother cleaning the house…dusting, vacuuming, and de-cluttering…the last frame shows all her effort completely undone by the son when he arrives home. I know the mother’s pain of “why did I even bother?”, except insert my husband into the role of teenage son.
My sweet husband understands that housework is not high on my happiness list, but that a live-ably clean house is. For me, clean feels better and frees my mind to ponder more creative aspects of living. My husband, on the other hand, believes a home is meant to be used and mussed up. He doesn’t want to live in a sterile environment where each pillow is forced to stand at perfect attention, and each crumb is banished before it reaches the floor.
In the odd timing of things, I will spend hours cleaning the house only to discover my husband has been patiently waiting for me to finish so that he can start “a project.” Those projects, like the “Zits” cartoon, will undo an entire afternoon of housework in short order. Sometimes my husband will nervously poke his head out of the kitchen after I hear a loud cacophony of metallic sounding objects hitting the floor. “Don’t come in here for awhile,” he says in his most charming voice. “Everything is under control. And, um, don’t worry. I’ll clean it up.”
I have no clue what “it” is, but my blood pressure stays lower if I do stay out of the kitchen for awhile. You know, the kitchen I just scrubbed and mopped earlier in the day. This morning, on Valentine’s Day, my sweetheart allowed me to sleep in. He made himself breakfast and packed a lunch before heading off on a day full of errands and volunteer work. As I stumbled out of bed he issued the same warning, um, I mean advice about staying out of the kitchen until he had cleaned up. After he left I went into the kitchen to fix myself breakfast and burst out laughing. He had cleaned up the big chunks, but the stove glistened with egg whites that had refused to go into the hot frying pan, the microwave was spattered with bacon grease, and I’m not even going to describe the floor. It was at that point I remembered all the things that make up my guy that I love. His sweetness (he did let me sleep in), his thoughtfulness, his unwavering support and loyalty, and his just plain addictive cuteness. He and I simply have different standards of clean, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of his messiness for the joy I have in living with him.
In honor of Valentine’s day I am going to include a piece written by Jodi Hills. It speaks to my feelings about being with my husband, and I hope will resonate with those of you who love someone special too.
“I really like who I am with you…I hope that doesn’t sound bad to say…I mean it more as a compliment to you, more of a “thank you” really. You free me to be this person who laughs and cries and feels and enjoys and loves. What a relief to be myself, without performing or worrying. Just being and becoming who I am…that’s some gift…I hope I’m returning it…because you know what? I really like who you are with me.”