The other day my husband sent me a disturbing text while I was still at work. I just got home it read, and I found Clementine…cleaning the bathroom.
My reply was instantaneous. Keep an eye on her. I’ll pick up some holy water on the way home. Sounds to me like a classic case of demonic possession.
Yeah, he replied. You’re probably right. But maybe, just in case, we should wait until she’s through with the bathroom.
Good call I shot back.
When I got home it turned out that the holy water wasn’t really necessary. For one thing, the bathroom wasn’t all that clean—it was barely “human teenage girl” clean, let alone “possessed by a vengefully clean spirit” clean. And for another, Clementine was already out doing something else by then, something that was more in keeping with her general nature. Or at least what I considered to be her general nature, because after the bathroom incident I really wasn’t sure I knew what that was anymore.
Here’s the thing: when Clementine was about one year old she and I met my friend Nancy for breakfast at Martanne’s. There I was, trying to balance a squirming baby on my lap and eat a plateful of chilaquiles when Nancy came to my rescue and scooped Clementine out of my arms and deposited her in a high chair. Clementine happily sat in her high chair and gummed a tortilla while I got to eat my breakfast with both hands, a luxury I had nearly forgotten about. When we got home I pulled out the high chair we had never used, and that’s where Clementine ate her meals from then on. (Well, up until a year or so ago. High school really put a cramp in her style.)
The point is that I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to notice that Clementine was ready for the high chair without Nancy’s intervention. It’s strange: even though we have the photographic proof (in the form of school and Christmas photos) that our kids are constantly changing, sometimes it takes someone—or something—else to really make it obvious to us.
The funny thing about this is that we can so easily see these changes in other peoples’ kids—how often have you found yourself muttering to yourself about the sixteen year old who was still required to drink out of a sippy cup? (To be fair, the family that instituted that rule did so after the third time a drink was spilled on a computer, making me think that that was actually a pretty sound rule for people of all ages. Unfortunately, my scotch just doesn’t taste the same out of a sippy cup.)
You’d think that as often as I complain about constantly having to buy ever larger shoes for my children I would be intimately familiar with the concept of people—and children in particular—always being in a state of flux. But it’s just like George Bernard Shaw said: “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
The (attempted) bathroom cleaning incident was followed a few days later by an attempt at doing the dishes, an attempt at sweeping the kitchen floor, and even an attempt at putting the trash out. (Sorry to all of you people who tried to drive down my street that day). Fortunately, by that time I had grown accustomed to the idea of the new and improved “helpful” Clementine, and was able to cancel the scheduled exorcism.
Unfortunately, It wasn’t soon enough enough to get a full refund—that’s okay, though: it’s always good to have one or two of those in the bank.