Every year I go through this ritual: being gone too long working on fires and coming home to total household collapse. It's like my house is not my own, and I don't even know where to begin the restoration process. This year I swore I wouldn't put my family through the traditional freak-out demon-mom session, since it really isn't fair to them, so I have spent the last 17 hours employing all types of breathing exercises and chanting little mantras to myself. One step at a time. It's only dirt. It's all fixable. It will be better soon. One load of laundry. Clean the toilet. Wash the dishes. Look in the refrigerator. Walk away, save that for when you are drunk later. Of course it doesn't help that I came home feeling like the worst kind of crap you can imagine. The kind of crap that I can't even tell anybody about because you'd look at me forever like the girl that feels like that kind of crap. Damaging crap. Damaging to my body and mind and soul. My body had the kind of break down while I was away that bodies just shouldn't have. Even old people bodies. The kind with stuff happening that you can't really pay people enough money to deal with because it's that uncool. Like, "kids, when I get old, if I ever start to ______, then just shoot me, ok?" Except I am 36, which granted is old, but not old enough for this stuff. I just want to crawl into my bed and hide. Or die. Or both. But I can't, because then people, like my husband, are like, why are you hiding in bed? And I am like, because I don't want to talk about it. And he is like, what did I do now? And I am like, it's not about you. But go away. And he is like, but we need to unpack the car. And the household has collapsed. Someone needs to re-erect it. And I am like, crap. One more load of laundry. A shower. Put on a bra that has been worn less than 5 days in a row. Vacuum. Cut hair out of power head. Vacuum. Do more dishes. Imagine cooking dinner. Do not cry. Imagine going to store to buy dinner. Do not hyperventilate. You used to know how to cook. Vacuum some more. Hide in bed. Succumb to guilt. Clean the bathroom sink. How does it get so gross in a month with less than one person using it? Consider folding laundry. Save that for the drunken later. Put on cleanest pair of sweatpants. Curse broken body. Take a nap.
This is what the day after a month of fire looks like. I just want someone that is dressed like a fairy godmother and who smells really clean to come over here and pat me on my head and say, there there, I know how much your ______ hurts right now, you just relax with these Very Strong Narcotics and some cheap wine while I tear out all of your disgusting carpets and paint your walls and make you Chicken Divan for dinner. That's all. Just that.
Instead, I will load up my long dormant Scentsy warmers that seem to mock me with their futile and fictitious clean smells. I will stare at the family pack of chicken thighs and contemplate how to cook them. I will change my clothes three times, thinking some outfit will make me feel better and like I didn't gain 10 pounds sitting in a very uncomfortable car for 30 days. I will just breathe. And maybe I will start drinking. And as that sets in, I will start to imagine how great our house will be with the new, clean, fresh-wood smelling floors that the fires have bought us. And the new, clean, smooth tiles in the not-disgusting-anymore bathroom after it gets fixed up in a couple of weeks. And all of the other amazing changes that a month of getting-through it has earned. It is so good to be home. Even if the household has collapsed. Every dish needs to be re-washed, every towel folded, every surface decontaminated, de-haired and dusted. By the time my head cold and these other too-bad-to-talk-about maladies have subsided, the house will be clean enough that I won't feel like I need toilet seat covers in my own bathroom and nitrile gloves to touch my own dishes. It's just the combination of a new-old house that still has remnants of someone else's dirt and the haunting aura of a smell that isn't ours, with a month of feral dogs and kids and Nobody That Really Cares, and being out of control. It really all boils down to control. I am out of control of my body, my house, my kids, my life. I put it on hold for too long and lost control. And it isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a chance to figure out what I can, and should control in my life, and re-evaluate where my priorities are. Clearly in this case it was a clean toilet, since that's the first thing I did last night and then just to be safe, repeated the procedure this morning. I have also had no fewer than three pairs of sweatpants on since nine o clock last night, as if I have been gone from them for so long that they all needed a turn on my body when I got home. Sweatpants are another item of Major Importance in my life, apparently. And I haven't yelled at either of the two kids that have been around, which means that they must be pretty important too. I think I have gotten enough small things done to warrant a nap. Just a small one. And then I will start again.