Dirty Is A Relative Term

Just when I think that I’ve really got nothing to write about, I trip over a conversation with my son, at bedtime, when I “tuck” him into bed. I don’t actually pull his covers up and smooth them out across his chest, ala June Cleaver, as she did for Wally and The Beav in their little single beds. That’s because I really don’t know where I would begin. My son climbs into a cluster-fuck mound of sheets, comforter and pillows every night, and he likes it that way. The feather bed under his bottom sheet is generally half-hanging off the edge, like a giant, bed-sized tumor that really needs to be seen by a specialist. This, because my son is far from motionless during the night; if he’s not walking around, taking his clock off the wall for no apparent reason, he’s wrestling with an invisible, nocturnal sasquatch—at least that’s what it looks like in the morning. I really don’t want to get too close to his sheets, anyway. I really don’t want to get too close to his room at all, but I do, and I’ve lived to tell the tale.

In my opinion, more parents should be tucking in their teenagers, at a decent time, with a wish for a good night’s sleep, a little head scratch and a promise that tomorrow, there will be more pain and suffering until eventually, you die. Wait. Scratch that. I simply mean that I enjoy helping my kids complete the long day’s journey into night. And from what I can tell, they like it too. A quick convo, and all of the day’s grime is washed away—mental grime, that is, as I was reminded of recently.

“Mom, I’m going to bed.”

“Ok. Be there in a minute.”

I padded through the kitchen toward his bedroom, wondering if I’d actually get any writing done, or instead settle in for a little TV. Turning the corner into his room, I had my answer.

“Oh my god. What are you doing?” I put my arms straight out, hands flexed, knees slightly bent, like a cop directing traffic in a busy intersection. If I had a whistle, I’d have blown it—hard. There he sat, on the side of the bed, preparing to snuggle in for the night. Toes lifted off the ground, ready to rotate 90 degrees onto the bed, where he would do the little foot wiggle so he could burrow his long legs under his covers.

“Getting into bed,” he said calmly—referring to the very same bed that just one hour prior I had put freshly laundered sheets on, right in front of him as he did his homework. Clean, white, fresh-smelling sheets. The problem? Soccer practice was climbing into bed with him, in the form of mud-crusted, grass-stained knees and shins, not to mention the very same soccer socks that he had worn at practice earlier that evening.

“How can you crawl into bed like that?” I said, barely able to mask my horror, bringing my hands up to my cheeks, ala Munch’s The Scream.

“Like what?”

“Your knees! And your socks! You’re going to put those socks into the bed with you?” (They still had grass particles stuck to them, and more than likely, gobs of flesh-eating bacteria.)

“I’m so tired, mom.”

“I know, but….well, oh god, all right. Never mind,” I surrendered, feeling all of the mom-tension flow out of me and the resignation seep in: He’s a boy.

“No, that’s ok, you’re right,” he said, as he climbed out of bed. I surged with a rush of relief. I had won, and it was easy! He won’t wallow in his own filth like the rest of his people seem content to do. My boy is different.

“I’ll wipe them off with a wash cloth.”

“What? Wait! What about a shower?”

“I’m tired,” he said again.

I didn’t argue. Shit, I was tired too. What the hell? It’s just dirt. It reminded me of when he was three, and he still used a pacifier. Someone asked me if I was concerned. I said that I was not—that I had not as yet seen a high-schooler, much less a Kindergartner, walking to school with a pacifier in his or her mouth. In other words, this too shall pass. A little dirt never killed anyone.

A moment later, an alarmingly brief moment later, he re-entered the bedroom and stood holding the once-white wash cloth, looking….confused.

“What should I do with this?”

“Geez, I don’t know, put it in there, maybe?” I said in my snarky, yet gentle-because-it’s-bedtime tone, as I pointed at his laundry basket.


“Whaddya mean, ‘Ewwwww.’ It’s the dirty clothes basket.”

“Noooo. I don’t want to put it in there with my clothes.”

“But that’s where dirty clothes live. What’s the problem?”

“I might need to get something out of there tomorrow.”

And there you have it: no such thing as dirty, just varying degrees of clean. I’ll try to remember this the next time I walk into the kitchen and see not my counter-tops, but snow-drifts of crumbs, jelly smears, dried egg yolk and butter glops.


Photo Credits

Edvard Munch’s The Scream – Wikipedia Public Domain

This essay originally appeared at Surreal Housewife of Amador County



Recent Lisa Lucke Articles:

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  • Raising Jayce
  • Fourth Time’s a Charm…Isn’t It?

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