The nostalgia of clean sheets #iPPP

Growing up, my most and least favorite day was cleaning day. Usually on a Saturday we’d wake up to the sounds of our mom scrubbing either the kitchen or the bathroom. We’d haul our dirty clothes out to the hallway and sort them into piles. We’d dust and vacuum and declutter.

When you’re a kid, cleaning sucks. But there was always something so lovely about resting on the couch under the ceiling fan afterward, surrounded by the smells of Clorox and Pledge. There was a peace to the clean house.

When it came time to strip and remake the beds, my sister and I would play a game with our mother. She would go to spread the new fitted sheet over the mattress and we’d climb underneath before she could get it secured. Then she’d continue to make the bed over us and we’d crawl out one corner, fixing it behind us.

It was silly, really, but it’s one of my favorite memories. The breeze of the snapped sheet over your head, the scent of the detergent it gave off.

The giggles as we lay trapped underneath the bedding for just a moment. The feeling that there wasn’t anything else going on in the world at that moment, just us in the bedroom, being together.

It was all part of the magic of childhood, the magic that fades for awhile but is renewed later when you get to be a parent yourself.

Yesterday I was making the bed when Monkey let out a loud squeal and leapt up onto it. He squirmed his way under the half of the sheet I’d already fitted to the mattress.

“I help,” he insisted.

He wasn’t much help, of course. He’d wrap himself up in the sheets, toss the pillows at me, and yank the comforter away each time I’d try to place it.

I would have gotten exasperated with him, but there was this moment. This moment when he was between the sheets, sitting on top of the fitted one I’d finally gotten tucked in, the flat sheet snapped out above his head, floating down in his face.

His face that was lit up from within with happiness at this moment.

Could he smell it, I wondered? The detergent, would he remember its scent years later? Would the softness of that clean sheet always be a comfort to him?

He had no idea of the bridge to my childhood he’d built in those few seconds, of how quickly I was taken back to those essentially carefree days. How for that moment, there wasn’t anything else going on in the world but us in the bedroom, being together.

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She wasn’t sure she was going to make it.

The split second she needed to gauge the footsteps – the leaps that would take her further from her pursuer and closer to an escape – that fraction of time might have made the difference.

Her pulse was throbbing in her ears. Could he hear it?

He would catch her again, this she knew.

She could hear his short, shallow breaths just feet away. He wasn’t watching. Not yet. But if she moved, if she made any effort to change her position, he’d be there in a flash.

She decided to go for it.

Uncrossing her legs, she leaned quickly to the left and sprinted up the stairs. Three, four, five steps to make it on the landing, then a quick juke to the left. Through the doorway – there it was! Freedom!

A door slam away.

She twirled around, grabbed the handle. Began to propel the door forward, but too late. Too late.

He was with her, grinning maniacally. He knew he’d beaten her, he knew she was caught.

As did she, so she sat down to pee, defeated, and handed the toddler a roll of toilet paper to unravel, resigned to her fate.

When mom and dad let you down

It’s Wednesday evening and I’m pulling ingredients for dinner out of cabinets and drawers. I’m going to attempt chicken fried steak again, my old nemesis. I tick things off the checklist in my head.

Monkey stands at the gate to the kitchen, doing his Stewie routine.

“Mom. Mom. Mama. Mommy. Mom.”

“Yes?” I ask, distracted by the task at hand.

“Cheeto please,” he says.

“No, mama is making dinner,” I reply.

He frowns at me, dimples disappearing. His brow furrows. He walks off to entreat his father.

“Dada. Dada. Dada.”

“What can I do for you, son?” his father asks.

The request is the same.

“Cheeto please.”

“No, Mama told you, she is making dinner,” his father says.

Twice denied, Monkey plops down on the floor. He’s considering his options. He could whine, but that never does any good anyway. He could go get the Cheetos himself, but that gate is proving to be quite the deterrent.

Hm. OH! That’s right. That’s how you get the Cheetos. That never fails.

The revelation brightens his features, the dimples return. He stands up, takes a deep breath and puts on his most charming smile.

“Dada, call MawMaw.”

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The day is done.

I pull on the silver handle and hot water pours into the tub. After leaning over to sprinkle in some bath salts, I straighten up and disrobe.

I leave my clothes in a pile on the floor. They are soaked in dishwater and covered with the tell tale spots and patches of a day spent toiling at the housework. They are the uniform of a stay-at-home mom: Loose, comfortable black sweats and a baggy t-shirt.

I step gingerly into the tub, anticipating warm water but find it to be a little cool. Once I’m seated, I turn the handle to the left. The water comes in hotter. It’s still not enough, so I push a little further.

Steam begins to rise.

I swirl the water around the tub, pushing it behind me where it always seems so much colder. I fan my fingers and let my hands sink below the surface.

I look down and my gaze rests critically upon my body. Breasts that could still be described as full but certainly not perky. A flabby, scarred abdomen that once proudly held a child. Strong, muscular-but-stubby legs. Crooked, misshapen unpainted toes.

I slide back, lay my head on the cold white surface of the corner and use the tips of my toes to shut off the tap.

The resulting drips lull me to sleep.

Too soon, the chill of the water revives me.

Reluctantly, I lift the drain stopper, step out of the bath and towel off.

Goosebumps pop up all over my body and I reach for the flimsy, leopard print satin robe – a gift from some long past Valentine’s Day – hanging on the back of the door.

It sticks to my damp skin but provides no warmth, so I trudge into the bedroom and search for a fresh pair of sweatpants, dress and crawl into bed.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Five Nap Commandments

1. Thou shalt not anticipate The Nap.

The Nap is not guaranteed. For if thou shalt stay up too late the night before and sayeth to thyself, “No need to worry, I will catch up on sleep during naptime,” thou shalt be sorely disappointed.

2. Thou shalt not taketh The Nap for granted.

For even so far as thou hath been granted a year of hour-to-two-hour naps, there shalt come a day (or two or five or twenty in an effing row) when The Nap shall not grace thee with its presence. Thou wilt cry out in agony, “Nap, why hast thou forsaken me?” But The Nap will not heed thy cries. Thou hast been warned.

3. Thou shalt have no other activities above The Nap.

If thy blog and thy Twitter, they call to thee, thou shalt say to them, “No, beasts, thou will not tempt me. I am getting some freaking sleep today.” For even though thou thinkest to thyself that there is yet time for one more DM, thou shalt find that time flyeth on swift wings, and The Nap has come and gone.

4. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Nap.

Yea, as the mom next door hath left the playground early for naptime, thou shalt be happy for her even as the fruit of thy loins continues to climb the slide backwards for the thirty-seventh time while showing no signs of slowing down.

5. Thou shalt not brag about The Nap.

If thou posteth about The Nap on The Twitter or The Facebook with the slightest amount of smugness, The Nap wilt surely skip over thy house to punish thee for thy transgression.

Thou shalt honor these commandments and keep them, all the days of thy stay-at-home career, in the hopes that preschool will one day come. Amen.