Here and now

May 07,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I love my kitchen, for many reasons. It's not new or fancy, and it sorely needs updating as far as the cabinets and floor go, but I love it because I love the space of it, what it represents, and how I feel when I'm in it. And while the big windows in the breakfast nook make me smile every morning, my favorite part of the room is this wall here: Wall art and the pantry door: Door art and of course, the light over the table. I really don't like the light at all, it doesn't match the kitchen, and Scott and I have been in negotiations over the removal of this light since we first moved into the house. The short of it is he likes it, I don't, and removing a perfectly good fixture in the name of home decor just isn't something he can get his mind around. But I have come to love the light because we can hang things from it, like those snowflakes in the winter time, and those flowers and birds this spring. I once visited a woman's house and it was sparse as sparse could be. Two children also lived in the house, but there was no artwork anywhere to be found. The refrigerator, a massive stainless-steel thing, had spotlessly clean doors, not a plastic alphabet magnet in sight. I wondered where all the stuff was--you know, the school notices, the odds and ends and, most importantly, the children's art work. When I walked around to the side of the fridge I saw two pictures, tacked neatly to the fridge, perfectly symmetrical, and looking a little lonely and forlorn by themselves. Everyone is entitled to keep house the way they want, and to decorate the way they want to as well. But my house has always screamed: kids live here! and my heart always does a little leap of joy when I see my children's artwork smiling at me from the walls. At the ages they are now, their drawings and paintings so perfectly capture who they are--none of the self-conscious worry about perfection and form and style has crept into their works yet. T.'s people drawings are of long-legged and friendly souls; maybe they are a little deformed here and there, but they are just the sort of friendly creatures you'd love to welcome into your home. And L.'s work, when he does produce it, is purely L.--and it always offers windows into his complicated and sometimes enigmatic world. HappyCan I brag a little about how proud I am of this poem L. wrote? I figure we will have years ahead of us when those walls will probably just be walls again, and those doors just plain old doors, and maybe that light will finally be gone. There will be years of clean rooms, and carefully sorted and boxed away toys and books and games. And while the clutter and the mess and the fridge covered in flapping papers and the smudges from eager fingers and the legos I step on daily and the stuffed animals in every room and the trail of dirty socks and underwear, sometimes drive me nuts, these are the things from the here and now, this glorious place where my children live.