Just remember to hide the evidence


I have been known to have a clean house. There was that time last August when I got on a roll. There was the cleaning frenzy that hit me in the post-tax season, and once last month, as the promise of visiting relatives loomed on the horizon, I polished until the entire abode sparkled.

But by and large our house is anything but tidy. To say it looks “lived in” would be an understatement. Quite frankly, the place often looks like a parade just went through.

Basketballs rule the foyer, dirty socks command space under the coffee table, and if ever the kitchen sink is void of dirty dishes, it’s only because no one has carried them up from the family room.

Just yesterday, the urge to clean overcame me. The dust was thick, the spaces cluttered, and unless dirty laundry was the new theme for the decorative niche at the bottom of the stairs, things had gotten out of control.

It was definitely time for some spiffing up.

As I loaded an abundant stack of sports bottles and drinking vessels into the dishwasher, I made mental preparations to corral the first kid who walked into the room and enlist his help.

“Charlie!” I said with too much enthusiasm as my unsuspecting first subject bounced a basketball around the corner.

“Oh no,” he responded as he recognized my over-enthusiastic tone and its implications, “is it a chore?”

“You dang betcha it’s a chore, little mister. We’ve got to come to terms with our living conditions. Now, carry these football cleats to the basement. Help me stash the last of the Christmas décor, and I think it’s time to put away the school bags.”

I stacked him up like a pack mule and sent him to the nether regions of the abode with the dog as his guide.

In the spirit of fun, it was Vernon (our eldest son, who was lucky enough to be home for a couple of days) who rounded the corner next. “Did you see that little guy?” he asked with a chuckle as he turned to watch Charlie bump into an end table.

Vernon has a sixth sense where I’m concerned and oftentimes seems to read my mind.

Thank heavens his mind-reading does not work around corners, or he never would have appeared in the kitchen. He was still laughing at his younger brother when he turned and met my gaze, and the look on his face quickly went stoic. “Oh no!”

“Oh yes. I’ve had it with the filth.”

“We live, we breathe. Why must we apologize for that?”

It was a good argument, and I could see that our money to educate him was well spent. Still, I handed him some tools and sent him off to utilize his wit at something other than taxing my brain.

Then I went to find our Lawrence for, Lord love him, nobody polishes the mirrors better than he does. But before I could find him, it was apparent that word had spread far and wide that Mom was about to embark upon a cleaning mission and that everyone should “Run while there is still time!”

Even the dog had gone on the lam.

With a house void of children and would-be helpers, I took out a pen and yellow legal tablet and wrote up a list of assigned chores to present them upon their return. Knowing that these kids of mine think that setting a can of Pledge on the end table qualifies as dusting, I went into great detail about the tasks that needed to be done and to what extent.

Loving to inscribe, as I do, I wrote of our ancestors and how surely Great-Great- Grandma Clinch would have given anything to be able to clean with a vacuum instead of using a hay bale to scrub her dirt floor clean.

Then I stuck the note on the first place they’d look upon their return — the refrigerator door. Although the house was devoid of my offspring, I knew they wouldn’t stay missing for long.

As Vernon says, they live, they breathe, and I won’t make them apologize for that. Just so long as they pick up the evidence.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to