When he arrived home, the kids and I were all in the library. I was in my favourite chair, where I'd been for the past three or four minutes, sending off a quick email to the soccer coach we hadn't heard back from and making another online attempt to reach the curling instructor who's been hard to get hold of. The kids were playing monkey-in-the-middle with their t-shirts and it was not a quiet spot to be in. Let's just say that.
Geoff came home, greeted us all, and then disappeared into the kitchen for a minute or two. Then he called me and asked if he could speak with me for a moment. His voice sounded grave. I went to join him in the kitchen and asked what was wrong...I noted that just minutes earlier he'd sounded almost cheerful and yet now he sounded - well, I couldn't quite peg it but something akin to grieved or upset.
"I'm not doing so well," he acknowledged. His voice was thin.
"Why? What's happened? You were fine minutes ago." I was getting anxious, too.
"Well," he said, hesitating (and in hindsight I wish he'd just stopped right there), "I came home cheerful and looking forward to the weekend, and I came home to this."
"What?" I asked naively, puzzled. Was it the noise?
"This," he said, gesturing this time with sweeping arms that took in the family room and kitchen, where the kids had built forts out of huge blankets this morning; where Matthew had spent two or three mornings crafting a village, home, and cottage for his Duckie out of cardboard and duct tape; where I'd just unloaded our picnic gear from the afternoon we'd spent at the park; where the kids' little chairs were still plunked in front of the tv from their watching of it earlier in the day; where this morning's breakfast dishes were still piled beside the sink. You get the idea.
"I find this depressing," he ended.
My first reaction, to be honest, was one of shame. How had I let these rooms get so messy? What was wrong with me? Those were the first two questions in my head.
But then my time spent in private therapy over the years came back to me and I realized I had no need whatsoever to feel ashamed or guilty in any way about what we saw lying in a state around us. There are valid times to feel both shame and guilt, but this was not one of them. Frustration, embarrassment (of him) and something close to fury, took over.
How dare he enter into our cheerful mess (which, granted, makes me crazy, too...reference my post of yesterday) and declare with what came across as great arrogance that this is what it was that made him unable to cope, that this is what led him to say in a defeated voice that he was "not doing so well." He'd been living in the mess for all of ten minutes in comparison to my last number of days and he couldn't cope?? I felt like telling him that if he didn't like it then clean up the fricking place himself. He almost got the old Pierre Trudeau salute pointed in his direction.
I said and did none of these things. I said nothing at all, in fact, for the next half hour, other than things that were dinner- or child-related. I was even cheerful. I kept everything tightly lidded because the kids were around and I had no desire to bring them into this. I'm remarkably good at remaining calm and controlled on the outside...just ask my friend Shelley, who thinks I'm a little too good at it. But despite the exterior, I was mad...steaming like the crappy dinner I pulled out of the toaster and slapped onto the table. I guess a last-minute dinner of peanut butter toast, cold veggies, apples, and a glass of milk aren't good enough for His Highness either, I thought.
After dinner, while Geoff went to watch the football game in the neighbouring family room (which I don't mind normally, incidentally, but surely did today), I cleaned up the kitchen and then, despite my earlier intention of spending a bit of time helping the kids clean up some of their messes, I decided that I was done working for the day. Done. I may be on strike tomorrow as well, I haven't decided. If there are others who are bothered by the mess, my best advice will be to refer them to a maid service that bears no likeness to me.
After I'd tucked the kids into bed, I climbed into bed with a book and I've been enjoying myself here ever since.
Tomorrow's reckoning will come soon enough.