Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

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Instead she has to wait for an hour at the bus stop, bundled up against the cold and doodling in her notebook, resisting the temptation to scribble on the bench like so many others before her.

We are cleaning out the TV room so Luca can move into it. He and Barno have shared a bedroom for years. As they get older and more capable of inflicting mental and emotional anguish on one another, they need their own space. So we are emptying and painting the downstairs room that first served as our bedroom, back when we first moved here and had only dogs, then as my “office” (quotation marks because I had babies at the time, and you know how that goes), and then as a TV room/guest room. The guinea pigs once called it home, too. It’s a good room.

It kills me a little bit to paint over the handprints. Back when I was a fun mom and we did art projects almost every day, I’d let the boys finger paint and then, right before clean up, put their mark on the walls of the TV room. I remember the first time I let it happen. Tallis couldn’t talk yet, but he held up his hands and looked back over his tiny shoulder at me with a questioning look. I know, two-year-olds aren’t known for their polite way of requesting permission, but Tallis has never been quite on par with his age group in terms of dealing with adults. And I hesitated because we’re not supposed to let kids paint on walls, right? Right? Wait. Those are my walls. This is my kid. Let’s do it. And we did. It was one of the first times I understood that we got to choose at least some of our own rules as parents. Painting on the walls could be just fine. As could dancing to rap music in the kitchen. And even eating candy hearts before breakfast.

We are all, except for poor Michael who had to go to work and support us, at home today. One of us is sick and the rest of are taking advantage. We are going to be lazy and good-for-nothing today. We are going to watch lots of movies. I am going to do lots of writing. I’m going to finish clearing out that room. I’m going to try and trace those handprints onto a piece of paper to frame as a more permanent reminder of when my boys were babies and days like this, with all of us home, were frequent and never-ending. I’m so glad I had that. And I’m also happy it’s over, because now, for the rest of my life, I can romanticize it, I can remember it in golden light, I can block out the boredom, the tedium, the never-ending potty training, the sense of uselessness that often came over me around four in the afternoon. I like the version in my head better. I like the version on my wall.

An earnest snow is falling and I’m going to go light a fire.

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