I mopped the living room floor this morning. When I’m in a bad mood, mopping strikes me as the ultimate act of depressing futility. It must be mopped, but it will not stay mopped. Futility doesn’t seem to matter as much in your thirties. Possibility still exists for floor mopping and surfing in Bali. Drudgery and glory coexist. Time feels more precious now, but the floor doesn’t care. It collects dog hair anyway. I don’t buy all that crap about leaving the cobwebs because they can wait. Filth is filth, so I fill the bucket and get on my knees. I try to convince myself it’s a kind of prayer, an act of attrition, or an offering of love to my family. Besides, what the hell else would I be doing this morning? It’s freezing cold and the baby is sleeping, so a walk is out and the great American novel is unlikely to poor from my fingertips. I think, just be. This act, too, is holy. For a moment, it’s true. The newly mopped room, vacuumed and dusted, does have a church-like essence to it. The patch of sunlight on the jewel-toned Oriental carpet takes on the slant of dim stained glass.
Then the dog flops down in the square of paltry warmth and a mushroom cloud of hair and dander and god only knows what else balloons up from his heaving side and I see the slobber smeared on the wood where his nose hangs over the fringe of the carpet. I have dog hair in my mouth and all over my pants. It’s fucking bullshit.
Hampton looks at me all watery-eyed and grateful for the cessation of vacuuming and I don’t know why, but I think of Quinn the other night in the van, driving home from swim team. It was dead of night dark at 5:45 p.m. thanks to daylight savings. I’d forgotten snacks. Xavier screamed in his car seat, wedged between Quinn and Nate, an inconsolable, it’s past time for my bottle and my snuggly jammies scream. I rifled through the console looking for something to hand him, but there was nothing but Starbucks straw wrappers and grubby pens. A collective whine of discontent rose from the bigger kids and I murmured “I know, I know, we’ll be home in ten minutes” and turned up the radio a little to ease my own anxiety.
The screams ceased abruptly and I checked the rear view mirror to ensure sleep and not sudden asphyxiation , but the baby was wide awake, watery-eyed and grateful, clutching Quinn’s hand. He held his hand, my boy who can break through a hockey line like a 60 lb Tonka truck, who shrugs when I tell him no dessert if he doesn’t eat his vegetables and fixes me in his glare, face hard as stone, oh well, I can have dessert at lunch tomorrow. I hit the off button on the radio to let the sudden silence rinse us all clean of the harried rush of the evening.
“I’m glad Xavier can stay for Christmas,” he whispered.
“Do you think he’ll stay after that?”
“I don’t know.”
We were quiet all the way home and I won’t lie … it felt a little holy in a life happens even when everything is covered in dog hair kind of way. Drudgery and glory co-existing.