Babies don’t keep

I was sitting here wondering why I am uninspired today. Both kids are asleep, the fireplace is roaring, I have on make-up, and then I realized…my house is messy.

When my house is clean, and I’m talking right after a good and thorough scrubbing, I feel like a million bucks. I dance around with my children, I could write a sonnet (and I’m not even a poet!), my soul just positively soars. But when the house is messy, I find myself shuffling about, my hair and clothes as unkempt as my kitchen.

I think the source of this displeasure is a keen disappointment that my resolve to keep things continually tidy did not pan out – again! Every time I do a deep cleaning/junk overhaul, I think to myself…will this be the last time I have to do this? Will this be the time that I, along with my husband and children, begin to pick up every piece of trash, put away every article of clothing, and sweep away every crumb on a minute-by-minute basis so that the house never gets really and truly dirty again?? The possibility dangles before me with promise, looking so wonderful and even achievable that I can actually convince myself it might just happen.This time!

Two days later, I look around, and the shining floors that reflected my joy are smudged, crumby, and dusty, the kitchen sink that implied that no one ever eats or has eaten here has a topsy-turvy stack of dishes just threatening to topple over at the slightest disruption, the pile of toys at the bottom of the stairs has become positively perilous, and the wind slowly but surely seeps out of my sails…

I was describing this type of distress to one of my senior adult friends at church one day, a beautiful widow in her 80s. She smiled and looked at me with that wizened gaze of hers and said “Someday your house will be really, really clean.” Her smile held a hint of sadness in it, and the meaning behind her words slowly dawned on me…

I thought of her house, always pristine, always sparkling, nary a crumb, toy, or dirty dish in sight. She is known for her immaculate home. And she lives there alone. Even though she wasn’t scolding me or offering obvious advice, her warning was implied, and I immediately wished I could take back my words of complaint.

She raised a family once, too. She had a husband that she spent a near lifetime with. And all of those beautiful blessings were gone from her life, leaving behind a very, very clean house. Makes my life look downright inspiring.

And it brings to mind the following poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton:

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,

Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

6 thoughts on “Babies don’t keep

  1. That is one of my favorite poems! I wish I had it on an old fashioned cross-stitch something to hang on the wall.. Sigh.

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