Today I was cleaning the large window at the front of the house. That window is the BANE OF MY EXISTANCE, because it’s right there, smack in the middle of the front of the house. And it’s a HUGE FREAKING WINDOW, just one massive pane of glass. Carmi (maniacally shedding dog) likes to sit there and mourn whenever I drive away with her boys. Part of her mourning process is apparently to rub her slimy nose on the glass. The boys like to stop by the front window every so often to pat their grubby hands on it as they gaze out into the street. If they ARE out in the street they like to come up to the window and pat it from the other side. It’s so LARGE that birds sometimes smack into it, leaving little nubbins of feathers fluttering on its surface. All of it together becomes a statement of sorts. Like, you know, if a welcome mat says WELCOME, my front window says FILTHY. I must wash that stupid window eleventy billion times a week, and it pretty much always looks the same.
Today I attacked it with a vengeance, spraying, wiping, and polishing with a dry cloth. Inside and out, twice each side. I’m not normally so INTENSE about cleaning projects, but that window BUGS ME. By the time I was done I’d broken a sweat, the neighbors had passed me on their walk and were whispering and stealing glances at my fevered work, and the window, she gleamed. A thing of beauty.
I went into the kitchen to start on dinner, aglow with my glass polishing prowess. I heard Max trotting down the stairs, then after a pause he came into the kitchen.
“Natalie’s not home yet,” he sighed.
“Sorry, honey. I’m sure she’ll be home soon.” He shrugged and headed back up the stairs to bug Tre. Natalie is his friend who lives across the street. He’d been watching for her return home for about an hour, peering out the front window…
The front window.
I smacked my knife down on the chopping block and marched out to the living room. Sure enough, there it was.
One small hand shaped smear RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WINDOW. I called Max down and SHOWED him and asked him AGAIN not to touch the window. He showed his deep regret by peering over my shoulder to see if Natalie had arrived home yet. I released him and snatched up the cleaner and rag again. That stupid window was going to stay clean for at least one evening if I had anything to say about it. But as I approached my glass nemesis, I saw the handprint in the middle of it and paused.
It was gorgeous, a perfect tracing of the shape of Max’s hand. Looking at it I could see him leaning one knee on the window seat, one hand on the glass, and hopeful eyes out at the world. It was a snapshot of Max and a moment in his life.
I remembered when Tre was little, just barely two, and one day he’d put his hand right in the middle of a circular mirror we had. I’d showed the resulting tiny print to his dad, and together we admired its itty bitty perfection. It was perfectly positioned in the middle of the mirror, and we agreed it was art. We vowed not to clean it off (FIRST TIME PARENTS, OK?).
After a while it started to bug me a bit, because I was worried that people were going to think I didn’t know how to CLEAN THINGS. This might have been supported by all the EVIDENCE all around me in the MESSY DEATH TRAP APARTMENT. Suffice to say, I’ve come a long way. Well, some way. Anyhow. I started agitating to Windex the art into history, but the hubby would have none of it. He scowled and shook his head. I glared. Even with thoughtful discussion like that, we couldn’t come to an agreement.
Finally one day he broke down and relented. I polished that sucker clean and we moved on with our lives. It was a great relief.
The thing is, you can’t SAVE your kids’ childhood. Mementos are poor substitutes for the real smell, sound, taste, texture of their lives as they are happening. It all washes over you day by day, and is gone. No use trying to keep it, you’ll end up burdened by reminders of what you can’t have ever again.
That’s why I can’t keep Max’s handprint there on the cursed window. And I’m gonna clean it off.