Someone put Cookie out in the Dumpster

Are We There Yet?

Lori Clinch

The outside of my refrigerator hasn’t been free of clutter since the first day we sent our darling to preschool.

I remember it as if it were only yesterday. I can still see him with his freshly combed hair, his little backpack, and his new sneakers that could make him jump higher than Michael Jordan.

When I picked him up later that afternoon, he came out the door wearing a smile and the largest piece of paper that I had ever seen.

In fact, the paper was of such astronomic proportions that I could have, if I so desired, covered the west wall of the house with it. It was plastered with cotton balls, smeared with wet paint, and sported a plethora of glitter and glue.

“What have we here?” I asked with a grimace.

“It’s a picture of the world,” he replied with a grin. “Ms. Bliss helped me make it. And she said we should put it someplace safe until it dries.”

“And how long does Ms. Bliss assume the drying will take?” I asked as the wind came up and tried to carry my child and his artwork away like a kite.

“Ms. Bliss said I should put it up for a couple of days and that we should be very careful not to wrinkle it on the way home. Can we put the baby somewhere else?”

As it turns out, the oversized artwork wasn’t an isolated incident but a trend there at the preschool; something they were known for. In fact, each and every time young Vernon exited the building, he was toting projects large enough to paper the walls, the driveway and the upper half of the Eastern Hemisphere.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate Vernon’s artistic talents or cherish each elegant piece that he brought into our home. I simply had no place to display 7,438 square feet of imagination. Yet Vernon was so proud.

“Grandma,” he exclaimed to my mother when she came to visit, “you’ll never guess what we made at school today.”

Grandma has been known to enjoy my misery. So, it didn’t surprise me when she stifled her laughs and answered him with faux sincerity, “What did you make today, darling? Wait a minute, let Grandma guess, could it be a picture of the Northern Horizon up to and including the Rocky Mountains?”

“No, silly,” Vernon responded, “we made a life-sized replica of Pocatello, Idaho, out of macaroni. I hand glued each noodle so my Mom can hang it on the wall in the formal dining room.”

To add insult to injury, Ms. Bliss never sent home seasonal artwork in time to display it for the corresponding holidays. Therefore, we exhibited king-sized pilgrims at Christmas, proudly presented a 6-foot Santa on the fridge for Valentine’s Day and just to shake things up a bit, we had a lovely Easter egg collage destroyed by the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

It was late in the summer following my child’s stint at the Oversized Art Preschool when I gave in to defeat and admitted to myself that we couldn’t proudly hang each and every item that the young man had ever put a crayon to.

I’d saved his chunky China collage, his astronomic replica of the Atlantic and an oversized scribble of a smiling blob in an A-line dress with “mommy” scrawled beneath it. It was time to throw some things away.

But it wasn’t easy. I waited until the time was right and I was alone. Being careful not to make a sound and cautiously looking all around me, I crept into the kitchen. I pulled the magnet that was holding his king-sized replica of the Cookie Monster onto the side of the fridge and then carefully carried the oversized artwork to the garage.

I crept back into the house covered with sweat and raw fear, hoping against all hope that my shrewdness would go undiscovered.

Although I was riddled with guilt, a small part of me felt liberated and free.

“You won’t even believe it,” I heard a voice exclaim from the garage only moments later. “Someone put Cookie in the Dumpster!”

I stood in the corner and tried to feign surprise, but I must have had guilt written all over my face. Because as my little darling brushed coffee grounds off one of Cookie’s eyeballs, he looked at me with pain and disappointment. “Was it you, Mommy?”

“What’s that smell?” my husband of many years asked as he walked in the door later that afternoon.

“Vernon found one of his king-sized works of art in a pizza box under last night’s bean surprise,” one of the kids answered.

The whole family turned and looked at me as Pat asked as if he were dumbfounded, “Who would have thrown that away?”

And that, my dear friends, is the closest I’ve come to a clean refrigerator in years.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” Her e-mail address is clinch@atcjet.net.