I used to have a really organized house.
When Bar Mitzvahzilla was little, we had him firmly under control. We had a bunch of plastic buckets of various sizes and each one was designated for a certain type of toy. There were buckets for cars, for blocks, for Legos, and one for action figures. There were a lot of buckets.
He had an amazing memory for the minute. If I picked up the tiniest Lego connector piece and said, "Where does this belong?" I could watch as his brain would go click click click and, like a computer, he'd figure it out. He'd say, "That goes with my Star Wars Death Star Lego set." And if I asked him where that was, he'd go to his room, pick up a Darth Vader helmet, 5 light sabers, 3 swords and 5 Bionicals, and find it.
Then the hurricane came into our lives. Our daughter was born.
She looked like a normal baby. 6 pounds, 9 ounces. Not a preemie like her brother. She slept a lot the first year. Little did I know that she was just storing up energy to bring the house down around our ears.
She was the nicest baby. A sweet, charming baby. Chubby with big red cheeks. Everyone who saw her - or at least anyone who was Jewish who happened to see her - said, "Oy, such a Yiddishe Punim!" Which meant that she had a beautiful little Jewish face - yes, chubby with big, red cheeks.
And then she turned one.
We were at a restaurant one day with her in a high chair and everything was pretty normal. She was putting all the olives on her fingers like fake fingernails, but nothing too odd. Suddenly, she stood up in the high chair. Apparently she had decided to leave. Alone. While walking into mid-air. That was the end of our halcyon days. I'm not sure she's ever sat down or stopped screaming yet.
My mother doesn't understand my leniency. She tells me, "Don't let her play! Tell her to stay in her room! Did you ever have toys all over the house in Skokie?"
Well, no Mom, as a matter of fact, I didn't. My mother ran a tight ship in Skokie. Despite having seven girls, there was never any evidence of us around. We were only allowed to play on the hard linoleum tile of our laundry room, but even there - in a room with a furnace, a laundry chute, and sponge-painted walls - everything had to be put away at bedtime. She wasn't raising kids, she was raising a house.
My house shows the effect of the hurricane to whom I gave birth nearly ten years ago. All spots at the table are neat and tidy except hers, which has a pile of crumbs on the floor beneath it. Nine forks have been thrown out with paper plates. Not one of her toys has ever made it into that neurotic toy bin system we once had. Her bed nearly rises from the ground with all she has hidden beneath it. Sometimes she surprises me by showing up out of her room dressed in a lab coat with a feather boa, a stethoscope, and a Magnadoodle briefcase, then setting up an office in our dining room. An office I don't disturb.
At night I go in to check on her and kiss her, if I can find her beneath the pile of stuffed animals. She lays there, her Yiddishe punim cheeks glowing, the hurricane gathering strength during the night to wreak havoc again in the morning.