I settle in to my “perfect place”: my grandmother’s chair, by our bay window, with a cup of tea, and my laptop on my lap. Ahh…it’s rare that I get these uninterrupted, child-free moments to write. And just yesterday, I actually cleaned the house. The lemony smell of Pledge, uncluttered surfaces, and a vacuumed floor all add to the perfect environment for my creative thought.
But there is one “problem”: Brennan’s toys. Just this morning, before preschool, he spread out our seventy-two inch-square-brown-fleece blanket in the open space just in front of my “perfect writing spot.” On that space, he corralled his matchbox cars, Magna Tiles, Tonka dump truck and fire engine, an ambulance, and a few other miscellaneous items.
Moments earlier, as I gathered my writing paraphernalia before settling in, I contemplated the scene before me. I could very quickly and easily remove his toys in order to give myself full visual peace. But something stopped me. I saw this “mess” through Brennan’s eyes, not my own.
This brown blanket was his canvass. The toys strewn about were not a mere random mess (though, to the untrained eye, they might be). There was order to what he had done and there was beauty, childlike beauty. He had created a world. Matchbox cars were characters. Tonka trucks were ideally positioned for his play. Magna tiles formed streets and buildings. An overturned box had become a part of this imaginary world (a store? A house?). Even the top of a basket looked like it has been strategically placed amongst the other items.
To clean up this “mess” would be to destroy Brennan’s hard work. I would be interrupting his play; play that I know he will continue immediately upon returning home from school.
I think of messes I have made. A dining room table strewn with scraps of paper, scissors, tape, pens, and photos. Seemingly a mess to others (my husband? My children?), but a masterpiece in progress for me. A bedroom floor covered with clothes, purses, shoes, and other random items: a mess on its way to being an organized (and purged!) closet.
Would I like someone to come midstream and clean up either of these works in progress? Of course not (unless they actually finished the job for me!). All my hard work would have been for naught. Sometimes messes are unavoidable and necessary.
Brennan’s mess is his project. His work. His masterpiece.
There are plenty of times when “cleaning up messes” are in order. When the kids have moved on to other play with other toys. At designated times of day when we clean up together (mainly at night, or just before dinner). At the end of my scrapbooking projects and closet purging extravaganzas. But there are other times, like now, that the cleaning up can wait.
Today, my job as mother is to keep the mess. Many times, “keeping the mess” is what comes easiest to me (i.e. I don’t really like to clean!). Today, keeping the mess is a sacrifice. A sacrifice in visual peace for me as I sit down to write.
Yet, strangely enough, Brennan’s canvas for all things imaginative has now turned into my canvas for creative outlet. Settled in my “perfect place,” with scents of lemon still in the air, I embrace my imperfectly perfect environment.