The Mess They Left Behind


I packed their suitcase and snapped on their shoes. I double-checked her security blanket was packed and their tablets charged. I kissed their foreheads and told them how much I loved them. I stood on the driveway as my father-in-law pulled away and waved them all goodbye. I watched as my whole heart left me behind and walked back into the house to the mess they left behind.

I sat on my couch and stared at the TV. I looked to my left and saw the ice cream cart toppled over with pieces scattered across the floor. The school table with dolls sitting in each chair with pretend food dispersed everywhere. Behind me, the kitchen floor had miscellaneous toys thrown about with tiny handprints on the pantry door. Uneaten lollipops and fruit snacks adorn the kitchen countertops, with dirty dishes and unfinished lunch filling the sink. Maybe I should tidy this all up, I thought, but it was their mess they left behind.

I want to put everything back where it belongs and organize the rooms they cluttered. I should clean up the house, but at the same time, I’d rather look the other way. As tears fill my eyes, I wonder if they miss me as much as I miss them. Do they have everything they need? Will my oldest be brave and be a little helper? Will my youngest remember to use the toilet? Will they ask for me at bedtime?

The house is so quiet, and it makes me wonder how I survived so long with constant pandemonium. All the whining, crying, screaming, and yelling. How did I do it? But seeing their toys thrown around reminds me of their little imaginations hard at work. If I touch their toys, it’s like I’m erasing part of their memory in the house. For now, this mess gives me all the comfort I need, but all I want is for them to be back with me, tantrums and all.

I look back at the door and hope they’ll be spoiled by their grandparents. I cross my fingers they’ll be safe and sound and remind myself that we will be back together in no time. So until then, I’ll be sitting in the quiet and looking at the mess they left behind.