Recently, something unusual happened to me. I was alone in my house for an entire day.
My husband took our son and his friend to the lake and our daughter was working all day. At the last minute, my husband also decided to take both dogs to the lake. Now I was really alone.
As soon as they left, I sprang into action. What activity did I choose for my day of aloneness? Cleaning the house.
After vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing and mopping, I had what I wanted: a clean house that would stay that way all afternoon.
The house was so quiet it was almost eerie. I wandered through the rooms I had just worked so hard to clean and thought back to those crazy years when a clean house (at the same time, anyway) was a distant thought at best.
When you have young children, and we had four in less than seven years, you learn pretty quickly that there are varying degrees to the definition of clean. Ditto with the word chaos.
I thought back to the days when my husband would complain we had no “grown up” Band-Aids and that he was tired of having to use Winnie the Pooh or Superman on his wounds. I laughed thinking of his big hands with a bright pink or neon purple colorful band aid.
I smiled remembering preparing for a simple trip to the grocery store and how diaper bags had to be packed and snacks had to be secured. Oh, those heavy diaper bags with everything in them except perhaps a snake bite kit. If I had of thought of that, I probably would have had one of those too.
I remember visiting the homes of friends who did not have children and wondering what it was like to have time alone that didn’t involve locking a child out of the bathroom only to hear them pounding on the door yelling, “Mom!”
I wondered what it would be like to actually sit down for dinner and not have to get up 10 times, raise my voice, remind people about their table manners (or lack thereof), cut up someone’s food, feed a baby or intervene during an argument. Back then, I thought there would never come a day when I could decide what I wanted to do without taking into consideration the troops I was in charge of.
Now here I was with a day home by myself and I had wasted part of it with housework. I wandered out into our back yard and went into my “old” garden.
It was 13 years ago when I planned out this particular garden. My husband put a cute little fence around it and built a huge sandbox for the kids. I spent so many hours out there digging, weeding, talking to our children.
The reason I call it my “old” garden is that it is full of shade due to some overpopulating poplar trees that I never had the heart to cut down.
I call this my secret garden. It is still beautiful with ivy and shady type plants. My vegetables grow in a raised bed in the back of our yard, where there is still a small patch of full sun.
Standing in front of where the sand box used to be, I remembered a special moment I had with our youngest son. I had had a tough day and was mentally and physically drained. I remember going outside and seeing our four young children working on a third treehouse to go along with the other two unfinished ones. I shook my head.
Then I saw, next to my beautiful garden, three pairs of dirty socks. I suppose you could say I sort of snapped. “Why are there three pairs of socks by the sand box?” I demanded.
My youngest piped up and said matter of factly, “When you play in the sand, it feels better on your toes when you have bare feet.”
I smiled at him and he smiled right back. After all, he was right. That story always reminds me, at the end of the day, whether it is a dirty house or socks in the garden, what really matters are our loved ones.
When my troops returned home and asked about my day alone, I told them the truth: I missed them all and was happy they were back.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.