I have a new theme song: ever since I realized that my daily mantra, “Put It Away Now,” bears an uncanny resemblance to The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song “Give It Away Now,” The Peppers have been stuck in my head. This is actually quite an improvement over my old theme song; before, whenever I walked through the sea of discarded shoes, coats, gloves, school books, back packs, art projects, library books, candy wrappers, milk jugs, cereal boxes, cracker crumbs, roller skates, and buckets of dirt hauled in from the garden that passes for a living room in my house, I would hear the theme to Sanford and Son; hearing Flea’s funky bass beat and the words, “Put it away, put it away, put it away, put it away now” is a much nicer, not to mention hipper, way to live. And, while having your own theme song might sound like the sort of thing that would drive a person crazy, when compared to the other mental accompaniment choices–like sputtering, ineffectual screams of frustration (imagine how Sergeant Schultz would sound as one of the castrati)–it is actually quite refreshing.
In fact, I am so happy with my new theme song (despite having to mumble the last few incomprehensible words of the chorus), that I felt almost buoyant as I shoveled my way to the front door this morning amidst the frantic cries of “Where is my shoe/homework/backpack/cereal bowl–oops, never mind…” In fact, armed with my new theme song, my response to this morning’s chaos could have been described as one of detached scientific curiosity, almost as if I was studying a family of primates (which, in a way, I was). Interesting, I thought, note how the young of the species are continually surprised by the connection between returning things to their original locations, and being able to find those things again. See how the older one fell over the “shoe objects” at least three times as they lay on the kitchen floor the night before, and yet is still unable to locate them in the morning. Fascinating. What can I say? Having a good theme song can make all the difference.
Of course, even the best theme song has its limits, or worse, can be corrupted by another, not so smile-inducing tune. That’s what happened to me later, as I flung what seemed to be the week’s 751st shoe back into the shoe bucket. That’s when I realized that it’s not just that my children don’t believe things need to be put away–it’s that they don’t believe things need to be put away by them.
I paused in mid-throw: such an inflated sense of entitlement seemed hauntingly familiar. And then I remembered the unauthorized biography of Prince Charles that had come out a few years earlier, written by his erstwhile valet. While this book contained many pieces of bizarre royalty trivia, the bizarrest bit by far had been the revelation that Charles had never once in his life put his own toothpaste onto his toothbrush: there had always been some lackey (er, valet) there to do it for him. (On an unrelated note, perhaps this was the reason why he and Diana eventually divorced: deprived of the chance to fight about trivial stuff like who left the cap off of the toothpaste, and whether it’s better to squeeze from the middle or the end, they were forced to argue about stuff that really mattered–like whether Camilla more closely resembled a horse or a mule.)
Suddenly it all made sense: obviously my children were royals who had the misfortune to be born into peasant stock. No sooner had I realized this then my theme song abruptly and unfortunately changed from “Put it Away Now” to “God Save the Queen.” I guess it could have been worse; at least I got the Sex Pistol’s version.