I would be happy if your house was messy. Clothes drying in the living room. Coffee cups, unopened mail and stacks of books falling over. Dog hair poking out from behind the couch.
I would smile at the faint smell of pee in the bathroom. Knowing for sure that you had been digging dirt, or paddling waves, songs flowing from your uninterrupted thoughts. Riding your bike to the market to buy fresh raspberries. Laughing on the phone with your sister.
Something you wanted to do alone that took all day.
I would love to know you had just eaten bacon and gourmet ice cream. Openly, with glee. Having forever banished the word lazy from your vocabulary.
We would remember the pact we made when the kids were small that we wouldn’t clean up for each other’s visits at all. How I secretly cleaned, just the toilet, a quick tidy. Husband and children shaking their heads, they don’t understand. It’s women who get judged, not them.
Remembering the mom who stayed for play dates and played. Little Pony voices, Polly Pockets. Can’t we just drink wine outside? Is she really suggesting hide and seek? In the house? Throughout the house! Humiliation, finding her crouched in the basement, behind the cat litter, cobwebs and piles of baby clothes.
No fresh baked banana bread makes up for that.
More shame sliding off each time we tell it, laugh, exaggerate it, give love to it.
I would tell you about my marvelous mother in law who stopped me from scrubbing the black roasting pan. “Oh who has time for that? Let’s pick cherries instead.”
My grandmother, checking herself into the psych ward to get a break.
Old now, we would wonder why we cared so much. We would sigh at the hours added up. Leaning into each other’s smell and mess as we tell our daughters this,
“Please don’t clean up for us”.