“I can’t wait for the kids to leave for school so I can toss out some of those toys.”
I listened as a young mom, frustrated at the litter of plastic toys all over the living room carpet, complained to another young mom.
“I know what you mean,” the other mom said. “My kids are going to the dentist today, so I can throw out the annoying little prizes they give with fast-food kiddie meals.”
I heard their conversations, and smiled. Once our living room looked like a war zone. No vase, doily, delicate lamp or anything glass or breakable was in sight. If it was not plastic or with round corners, or light of weight, it was not there. Toys, oh, how I remember the hundreds of little building blocks, race car tracks, dominoes, and so many other things. They hurt my feet as I walked over them. When night came, it seemed like every single toy had been dragged out of several large toy containers hidden in a room under the stairs.
As a rather tolerant, non-structured mom. I always spent a part of the evening picking up each and every little object. I remembered also how my blouses, dresses and jackets were always covered with food residue, milk stains or traces of baby burps.
At some point I gave up hopes of our home looking like what I saw in other homes – flowers on the living room table, nice glass tops, chairs with wrought iron details, curtains and drapes with tassels, always looking clean. They would bring ice tea in glasses, or even goblets with stems, and dishes of cookies made of porcelain. I wondered and finally gave up hope of ever having such a place.
I don’t know what happened to Father Time. I don’t know how every day, totally unnoticed by me, the children grew and the house changed by such tiny increments, I hardly realized it. Indeed, there were less toys to pick up, less stains on clothing and less time they spent in the house.
Time came when I would mostly watch them from the kitchen window, playing in the yard with friends. There would be some sand, grit and just plain dirt tracked in by bare feet. I would sweep, patiently, wondering if there would ever be a clean floor in our place.
Then would come those hours when they were all in school. It was quiet in the house. There were no toys on the floor. There was a silence, an eerie kind of silence. Yes, I could relax and take a breath. Yes, I had less chores to do. No, I was not thrilled. It felt a little sad.
Little by little, I began decorating, if it could be called that. A dried rose in a plastic cup, a curtain on the kitchen window, a pretty dish from a flea market. Sometimes a neighbor would visit and I would put on a front – as if the table had always been wiped from fingerprints, as if the chair never had crumbles of chocolate chip cookies between the cushions.
Then came a time when the children’s growing pains became a reality. How minor did those scattered toys and stained clothes seemed in comparison. Waiting for the children to get older, so the house could look nicer and my dress more acceptable, seemed like a silly thought. I fully understood now the expression: ‘Small children, small problems, big children, big problems.’
Those days of littered toys would never again return. Yes, the grandchildren would come and play and do all the things kids do. This time, I could wave goodbye to them, and straighten up, grateful that I had a small flashback to when I was a young mom and also grateful that I did not have twenty-four seven responsibility for them all the time.
Today, my family is far from me. I don’t even have any toys in the closet to bring out in case a grandchild comes over. The youngest one is seven and lives in another State. I send him toys via mail. I hope to see him on Skype soon. The other grandchildren are grown and living their lives as they need to.
My thoughts returned to those two young moms I had just heard talking of getting rid of some toys when the children were out.
All I could think of was: “Someday, you’ll miss those toys.”