The Christmas holiday has bestowed the gift of my adult children at home for a week as well as two additional dogs and a cat. Yes, it’s a little chaotic and crazy here.
My mother always says that fish and house guests stink after three days. I’m unsure if it is a cautionary tale meant to keep your house cold or to ensure there’s adequate Febreeze, but so far the stench has been minimal. Other than discovering one of my dogs is allergic to one of my daughter’s dogs and that when everyone in my family is in front of the wood stove for a picture, the wood stove pipe will spontaneously disconnect from the chimney, things have been surprisingly pleasant.
Except for the toilet paper.
There is a right way to put on the toilet paper roll and a wrong way. You would think these two children that I raised would know this. In our house, the toilet paper roll has always unfurled on the front. Always. Trust me, anytime a visitor or passing toilet user has made the mistake of loading it backwards, I’ve promptly remedied the mistake. My lifelong dedication to this principle is unwavering.
Why then, does my youngest daughter replace the toilet paper backwards? Why would she think that dangling the end of the roll down the back of the holder is acceptable? Has she learned nothing from me all these years?
Of course my mother always told me to never go outside with wet hair or I’d catch a cold, and I do that all the time. She also cautioned me against putting ice in red wine, but damn it, I like my red wine chilled. My grandmother told me never to put hot meat on a cold plate or it would be shocked into toughness. I ignore that on a regular basis, too. But all of their recommendations were based on superstition, and the correct way to hang toilet paper is based on common sense and science.
And, not only that, but I forgive my children for so many other things. I don’t mind when they don’t squeegee the shower walls after bathing. I clean the hairbrushes without complaint (though wonder which one of them left gray hairs in there). I cringe inside, but shut my mouth, about the half filled beverage glasses left on side tables and the carelessly kicked-off shoes that create a mine field near the front door. I forgive so much, but, toilet paper? I suspect even Jesus would have a problem with that.
In case you’re curious, let me assure you, as a hostess, I am top notch. Their favorite meals (three bean chili, my special turkey stuffing, bread bowls) are consumed with satisfaction. The house is kept tidy and clean, in spite of four dogs and a cat. My television remains tuned to shows I would never watch (Jersey Shore, My Big Fat Gypsy American Wedding, and Catfish to name a few). I provide adequate outlets for their myriad electronic appliances. My car? Please, take it. It’s clean, maintained, and full of gas. All that I provide seems sufficient to ensure a guest would have no problem complying with my one, small request to put the damn toilet paper in the holder correctly!
Let me take one deep breath to center myself.
Okay. In their defense, they have shoveled snow, washed clothes, rinsed dishes, and even fed my allergic dog the 18 pills he must now take daily. The fact that one daughter, in an attempt to entice my dog to chew his fish oil gel cap, bit into the capsule herself and ended up with a face full of fish oil is a Christmas memory I’ll savor. Their thoughtful Christmas gifts (including an Ipod adapter for my car and a hot spot for the houseboat) illustrated how well they know me and my needs. Waking up to them shuffling around the house like zombies as they prepare their morning cups of coffee brings back memories of college breaks and the remembered happiness of having them here, tempered with the relief of knowing they would leave.
And, even though fish and house guests may stink after three days, the emptiness of my children’s leaving will last for many more. For a week, we dance around trying to get this new relationship right. We bicker, and pick at each other, and roll our eyes. We form and reform alliances over movies and music. We hide our resentment and disappointment. Then we hug it out and whisper i love you’s and i miss you’s and i wish you didn’t have to leave so soon. But, that’s what happens when children grow up.
Someday they’ll have families of their own. They’ll create their own holiday traditions and, I hope, I’ll have a place in them. Each holiday reminds me that this will always be their childhood home, but it isn’t the place they call home. It reminds me that my time for making their rules has ended and now they make their own, and if that includes putting the toilet paper in backwards, there’s nothing I can do about it because I can’t turn back time. I can only turn around the toilet paper.