This week, as I was putting With-a-Why to bed, I looked around at my daughter's bedroom. It's a tiny corner room with space for a single bed pushed against the wall, a trunk under the window, and a bookshelf tucked against the closet; it's a pretty room, with one wall painted pink and translucent white curtains on the windows. While Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter has been living in City Where Lager is Drunk in Pints, With-a-Why has been sleeping her room – partly because he goes to bed earlier than the older boys and partly because he misses her. His stuffed animals are piled on her bed, and his special blanket and pillow. His books and comic books are scattered on the floor and piled in stacks on the trunk next to her bed, and the windowsill is filled with random items that belong to him.
"We need to clean this room before your sister comes home," I warned With-a-Why. He looked up at me from under his long black eyelashes, shrugged, and went back to the sketch he was doing. He's the baby of the family, and the amount of cleaning he does would barely keep the health department away.
I did not let his response deter me. Yesterday, I announced to the whole household, which includes various extra kids, that we were going to clean the entire house this week in honor of my daughter's return. A thorough cleaning. Closets and everything. The gang of teenage boys looked at me with a decided lack of enthusiasm and went on playing cards. Shaggy Hair boy muttered something about how he'd be willing to clean if he could skip school on Friday.
Neighbor Woman, who had stopped by to pick up Older Neighbor Boy and Philosophical Boy, listened to my pronouncement and laughed.
"But if the whole house is clean, it won't feel like home to her."
She's got a point there.