Slices of Life: Fingerprints on the mirror

So I finally made it. Man, how I’ve waited for this stage in life.

After years of being pregnant, breastfeeding, snuggling little ones in the middle of the night, and cleaning up LEGOs off the floor day and night (after first stepping on them), I’m finally here.

Free at last. Free at last. Free. At. Last.

By free, I mean a stage in life where chaos no longer rings supreme. As much as I indulged and relished that stage, I celebrate (to an extent) its end.

I can put pillows on the bed (neatly) in the morning and know they will still be in place when I go to bed at night. I can put the cat food or water in a dish on the floor and rest assured that no one will touch it, turn it upside down, or try to drink or eat it.

I clean the windows and mirrors, and they stay spotless. The same goes for the kitchen floor and countertops.

For a person who self-actualizes over order, it is a piece of heaven on earth. Except for one tiny factor (or two): grandchildren.

They came to visit last weekend, and I was reminded of the beauty of chaos. I was reminded of the loneliness a beautifully made, pillow-filled – albeit empty – bed can create.

After a weekend with my grands I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. Pillows be damned. A clean kitchen can check itself at the door for all I care. Give me those grand babies – those messy, sticky, sweet, and lovable grand babies – chaos and all.

They’ve visited me a few times this summer. We went into town to the candy store. We rode on the pontoon to the sand bar. We stayed up late, way past our bedtimes, putting together puzzles and crafting at the kitchen table. We picked veggies from the garden and tasted them right there. We found apples that had fallen from the apple tree and make homemade apple crisp. We watched the eagle’s nest, caught fish, witnessed loons with babies on their backs, and saw snapping turtles hatch. It’s been a magical time. Nothing short of it. At least for me. I can’t speak for my grandson; I hope they feel the same way.

After their first visit in June, I noticed the hallway mirror. It’s a full-length type, reaching from the floor to near the ceiling. At the bottom were numerous handprints of the childhood variety. They’d obviously found themselves in the mirror and couldn’t help touching and leaving a visible reminder of their presence.

I remember a similar instance with our dog, Daisy, years ago, except instead of fingerprints on the mirror, she left nose prints on the window. After Daisy passed over her rainbow bridge, I noticed the nose prints and for the longest time, couldn’t bring myself to wash them away. It was like washing her away.

I feel the same about the handprints on the mirror. I know they are fleeting. I know these days of magic are short-lived in the big scheme of things.

So, despite my orderly nature, I walk by those fingerprints every day and smile. I think maybe I should clean them, but know I won’t. At least not for a while.

They are too close to precious memories. They serve as a representation of the squeals and giggles and marshmallows and freezies eaten this summer. They are a reminder that childhood is ephemeral. Handprints start out low on the mirror and rise higher and higher each year until they gradually disappear along with the stickiness and innocence of childhood.

So for now – for beyond now – I celebrate sticky. I celebrate the simple beauty of a visit to the candy store or picking tomatoes, pulling carrots, plucking zinnias from the garden, or finding magic apples on the ground as seen through a child’s eyes.

It is nothing short of magic – much more for me than for them. I am the winner in this equation.

So I celebrate visits to the lake. Chaos and all. Fingerprints and all. Especially the fingerprints, the lessons they teach, and the perspective they bring. I wouldn’t give them up for the world. And if you visit me next summer, they might well still be here.

And you’ll know why.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.