One of my favorite commercials is an advertisement for carpets. It's the one where a child drops a piece of chocolate cake. Before it hits the floor, his mother, across the room, leaps into the air and sails in under the plate like Wade Boggs sliding into home. As she makes the catch with one hand, there is wild applause.
The ultimate nightmare of mothers everywhere is entering a non-child home. I used to look upon these domiciles as war zones: celery green carpets mined with glass coffee tables, flocked wallpaper covering light switches, little soaps in the guest bath, and pianos that were never played. There was always a piano.After instructions to "Don't touch anything we can't afford," I offered my own prayer as we approached the front door. "Please God, don't let there be a little Persian rug to roll up in, a collection of blown glass miniatures, three levels of stairs, and cookies that crumble. Could there once be a home without a dog to chase, a bathroom that can't be unlocked from the outside, or a hostess who doesn't fill the grape juice to the top of the glass? Forgive me, but is it too much to ask that the water be shut off? And perchance if my child naps in the guest room, please let him fall out of the bed before he wets."
On the other hand, people who live in non-children homes look upon visiting toddlers as demolition balls that slobber. They have their side, too. A woman who insists on remaining anonymous complains that people should watch their children more closely:
"In and out the screen door, gotta go potty, gotta get a drink. One little girl kept filling the flyswatter with seeds from the bird feeder. She dumped them in the garden. They threw rocks in the bird bath. I gave them suckers and had to wash the top of the bench and the end table and the lawn chairs. They broke the Venetian blind cord and the heater door. I surprised one of them in the bedroom, and he hurriedly jammed my lipstick back in the cover and broke it in half. They made the dog crazy, and I found the garden hose running the next day."
Somewhere there is a middle ground between parents who are shot full of Novocain and are out of it, and hosts and hostesses who believe children can sit for three hours with their feet on the floor while big people talk about fertilizing their trees and how the Cubs are doing this year.
The non-kids house is one to which we all aspire - where plastic turns to china and black towels turn to pastels. It's a magic world where keys are left on table tops, cookie jars are on lower shelves, and the doors under the sink aren't wired shut. Until then you just tell your kids, "Don't dribble, slobber, skate, talk, scratch, slam doors, twirl dials, flush, turn spigots, flip switches, open doors or giggle. Just sit there and enjoy yourselves."