Wednesday, February 4, 2015

On Playing Cards and Doing Laundry

My beautiful friend Virginia told me years ago that, growing up, she fell asleep to the sounds of her parents playing cards at the kitchen table. That snapshot was the entirety of the story she shared, but it was precisely its simplicity that held such power. I don’t know Virginia’s parents (except through her stories), and I’ve never visited her childhood home, yet I have created a detailed mental image of those evenings: I can see her parents, sitting across a simple, oak table in an old, but tidy, kitchen. There are floral curtains hanging around the window over the sink and a damp towel hung on the empty dish-drying rack. The comfortable hum of conversation about the game and her parents’ days is punctuated only by an occasional shuffle of the deck. And in Virginia’s small, dark bedroom, where dolls and books line shelves and a few strays dot the floor, she lies in a cozy twin bed, quilt tucked to her chin, as her eyes flutter closed.

But more vivid still than the picture of that scene is the knowledge of precisely what Virginia must have felt in that moment. When that first shuffle of the deck pierced the quiet, she felt the security of routine, the comfort of the familiar rise and fall of her parents’ conversation, the certainty that she was safe and, above all, loved.

These are the things I hope home is for my boys. And so it is that Virginia’s story so often comes to mind in the evenings after I’ve kissed my boys goodnight, tucked them in, and turned out the lights (in rooms that aren’t nearly so idyllic looking as Virginia’s imagined room). Many evenings, I head straight for the laundry room. As I’m bumping around, doing the work that begs to be done, I wonder if the boys hear not sounds of tedious household chores, as I do, but rather sounds of tremendous comfort.

When my boys hear the familiar rush of water refilling the washer, are they soothed by the knowledge that I am near, always near? When they feel the angry shaking of the spin cycle, are they temporarily jolted awake just long enough to remember that they have parents who faithfully care for their every need? Does the rhythmic clicking of zippers and rocks and stray Legos hitting the dryer drum fill them with the security of routine as they close their eyes? When they hear the gentle scraping of drawers opening and closing as they’re refilled, do they rest comfortably in the knowledge that they are so very loved?

Today, my youngest got upset with me when I told him he couldn’t have a giant bowl of ice cream for dessert, but it was, also, I he turned to for a hug to ease his sadness. I watched as my middle son returned home from school, the anxieties of the day sliding off his shoulders and hitting the floor alongside his backpack, as he stepped over the threshold of our home. My oldest requested one-on-one time with me so he could tell me about a problem he’s having at school. And all the boys jostled for prime positions during evening reading time, snuggling into me but never quite being satisfied that they had gotten close enough. It is in these quiet moments that I wonder – hope, pray – that this is one area in which I’m getting it more right than wrong. That these precious boys know how completely they are loved. That there is nothing they could do or say to make me love them less. That I’ll always be right here, waiting for them.

And I’m quite certain they’ll know in which room to check for me first.

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