After an exhausting day, I was looking at Cathy Zielske’s newest book, Clean and Simple Scrapbooking: The Sequel, and the section headed “Finding Neverland” caught my attention. In it Cathy debunks the idea of a magical place called “Caught Up” that all scrapbookers should strive to reach. She says, “It’s very quiet there. And from what I hear, insanely boring. Same food. Same scenery. Same finished albums. And the scrapbookers are scratching their heads, wondering, ‘So this is the place I was trying so hard to get to?’”
This idea resonated with me. It’s true that I have been wanting to get my albums Caught Up (though I haven’t had the desire to scrap for several months) but, more importantly, I have been a leeeeetle bitter about the fact that my life was never going to be Caught Up. At night, when I stagger into the bedroom drained of all my youth and vitality, barely able to utter a complete sentence, the house does not look like I cleaned and picked up and wiped and folded all day. In fact, the house looks exactly like I sat on the couch all day in my bathrobe watching soaps and occasionally screaming at the kids not to murder each other, only getting up to microwave myself a Hot Pocket. That’s how my house looks, despite my best efforts. I don’t do laundry one day, JUST ONE FREAKING DAY, and you can’t walk into the laundry room due to piles of dirty clothes. I sweep and mop the kitchen floor, forgetting that we’re having couscous for dinner, and the next day the floor is crunchy under your feet. In fact, the floor around our table is pretty much always covered in dried food. You could tell our week’s menu by examining the tile. Like taking a soil sample. Every night I went to bed feeling like I hadn't accomplished anything.
Reading Cathy’s words, I felt a knot loosen in my chest. It doesn’t pay to try to get Caught Up, I thought. That way madness lies. Yes, you clean and cook and wash and fold and wipe noses and hineys—and do it all over again without things staying in place. You have to try to do these things for the people you love, instead of trying to arrive at a destination that is impermanent by definition.
I thought of what a Caught Up house would look like: a magazine photo, a Pottery Barn catalog. Unfortunately, it would also mean a house with no children. With children involved, a house would look like that photo for about five minutes. Less, if the kids are jacked up on sugar. The only way my house is going to be like that is when my children are gone. I sat with that thought for a while, and I came to believe that when that happens, I’m actually going to miss tripping over blocks and moving plastic ponies out of the sink to brush my teeth. Because Caught Up may mean Finished, but there’s no such thing when it comes to being a mother.