One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the Christmas tree; specifically, the part where I get to take it down and put it out on the curb. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas—I am very fond of all of the “Chocolate Holidays” (holidays that give me an excuse to have a lot of chocolate in the house)—it’s just that as soon as that tree is gone my living room feels two sizes larger. (Yes, I know that getting a tree for the sole reason of eventually removing it is no better than hitting yourself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. That doesn’t keep me from doing it, though. The tree thing, I mean: so far I’ve resisted taking up the hammer habit.)
I’ve often wondered what other seasonal items I could bring into the house to give me that same sense of extra space once the season is over, but no other holiday (that I know of, at least), seems to involve creating as much spatial upheaval in your life as Christmas. Or at least that’s what I thought. Then I had a daughter who came home for the summer from college, and I realized that spatial disruption is by no means limited solely to trees. Or even to vegetation. It’s true: the very minute my completely human (we’re at least 90% sure) daughter leaves for school we celebrate the fact that our bathroom triples in size. Does that sound mean? I wasn’t trying to be mean. But at the same time I think anyone would be a little mean if they had been given a taste of a spacious, fully functional bathroom for a few glorious months, only to have it all snatched away again with the wave of a hairdryer.
Of course, logically I already knew that the state of my bathroom would improve once I had one less person using it—math, yo—I just hadn’t realized what a difference it would make who that one less person was. For years I blamed the state of my bathroom on the fact that I had two children using it—two people who left their towels on the floor, their razors in the sink and their empty shampoo bottles lined up in the shower like liquor bottles in a frat boy’s window. Then one of them left, and the truth was revealed.
Don’t get me wrong: the bathroom didn’t become spotless—not by a long shot. But the sheer volume of detritus did seem to decrease by significantly more than half. And not just because the “extra” child is a girl, either. Trust me: the boy in this family goes through just as much hair product and wardrobe changes as the girl. Somehow, though, as filthy as the boy is, the girl manages to be worse.
The same can be said of other areas of the house as well. My laundry room seems to grow impossibly more roomy with the subtraction of one child, at the same time my coffee supply lasts for days, instead of mere hours.
Maybe it would be the same no matter which one left. Maybe the reason it is so filthy with two is because they always know that there will be someone else to place the blame on, and so therefore know they can get away with making zero effort to keep things tidy.
Or maybe my daughter is just the biggest slob in the known Universe—a menace to all things bright and beautiful. It’s a theory. One my son seems to be pushing pretty hard. And since he’s the one that’s still here, I’m kind of inclined to believe him.
At least until Winter Break rolls around again. Although by then I might be too distracted by the tree in my living room to even notice the state of the bathroom. And if not: well, there’s always chocolate.