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Balancing Act: Old friend will have to pardon the Tuesday night mess

Dear friend who is staying with me on a Tuesday night,

Welcome! So glad you’re here.

I didn’t vacuum.

If you visited on a weekend, I would have vacuumed.

But if you planned to visit on a weekend, it would have taken seven months to sync our schedules, and then one of us would have canceled at the last minute to attend a kid’s swim meet/flag football game/birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

This is better. You’re in Chicago for work, I have a sleeper sofa, and we don’t see each other nearly enough. All of which adds up to you staying with me on a Tuesday night. I’m delighted.

My laundry isn’t put away.

There is a light dusting of flour on most of my kitchen surfaces because my daughter likes to make crepes when there is never quite enough time to make crepes (is there ever?), and I tend to ignore my kitchen surfaces on weekdays.

Be careful not to trip on the 14 pairs of shoes that will greet you at the door. I put them away on the weekends, but on a Tuesday they sit at the ready for three kids and two adults to put them on/kick them off at a rapid pace.

Please ignore the dog hair.

We’ve been through a lot together, you and I. Middle school. High school. College boyfriends and newborn babies. A divorce. (Mine.) A spouse’s battle with cancer. (Yours.)

On a Tuesday night, though, you will see a vulnerability I’ve hidden from you thus far.

My stacks.

Stacks of magazines I will eventually recycle, unread.

Stacks of homework that my kids’ teachers have graded and returned. I have no use for these papers. I feel guilty tossing them.

Stacks of miscellany that I need to address: cable bill, field trip permission slip, catalog for Girl Scouts summer camps.

Oh! Girl Scouts! Sorry about the dozen or so cases of cookies piled in my dining room. My daughter sold 240 boxes, and they arrived on Sunday. I still need to sort and deliver them. (Do you want to buy a couple boxes?)

My kids’ rooms are a mess.

This is one of those things I think ’70s moms had a better handle on. “We’re having company. Clean your rooms.”

I thought about that one long and hard, to be honest. It seems like a reasonable request. But my daughter goes straight from school to Girl Scouts to trampoline practice on Mondays, and straight from school to cooking class (where I volunteer) on Tuesdays and, well, I’ll let the state of her room complete that sentence.

At 6 years old, my son isn’t really that busy. He could have picked up his football cards before you arrived. He likes to spread them all over his room, sit in the middle of them and pick random players to quiz himself on. It’s kind of adorable, and, frankly, it’s doing wonders for his reading.

And I guess I think my son’s reading and my daughter’s extracurricular pursuits are more important than me giving you the false impression that I keep a clean house.

And I think you agree.

I think you’ll feel warm in my house, which is happy, if not exactly magazine-worthy.

And I think you know me well enough to know that wasn’t always the case – the happy part.

We’ve talked to each other from a hundred different places over the years. Our childhood bedrooms. Our college dorm rooms. Our first very own, badly furnished, apartments. The hospital, when we had our babies. The hospital again, when I was sick with meningitis.

I realized that friends, good ones anyway, know which messes to overlook (the superficial ones) and which messes to help you clean up (the fundamental ones). And they can’t do that if you’re hiding them all. You’re one of the good ones. One of the best ones, actually.

So here I am, three years removed from that condo, in a slightly bigger house, in an infinitely healthier marriage, with an unflagging commitment to prioritize happiness over spotlessness.

Welcome to my home on a Tuesday night.