By RHONDA SCHROCK
“Dear Mr. Schrock,” read the notice. “From the sounds of it, your kids are killing each other by the light of the Christmas tree. Which, of course, they’re supposed to be taking down. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come home and facilitate a little peace on earth. It would sure help Mama feel like kissing, uh, the guy in the red suit? Signed, Your loving wife.”
Predictably, my Facebook friends chimed in with chuckling, hooting and slapping of the knees. None of whom appeared to have kids of their own who were killing each other by the light of the tree.
Our local Santa Claus (a.k.a. Mr. Schrock) was used to it. For the 23 years we’d been parents, he’d been subjected to such daily debriefings by an occasionally hysterical female. There was a reason, I knew, that he left for the office every day with a smile on his face. As he’d put it, he used “all eight horses” to get out the drive.
Just the other night, we were watching an IU game together, cheering for Zeller and his teammates when suddenly a graphic appeared. “Mayhem index,” it read.
“Maybe I should post one every day,” I said, laughing out loud as I pictured a whiteboard with a mayhem scale, colored in red and off the chart. I shot a glance at Mr. Basketball hunkered on his end of the couch. He, I noted, was not laughing and simply looked tired instead.
Poor fellow. No wonder he was tired. Him with all those boys who shouted and chased, ate him out of house and home and came asking for money as though he had “Credit Union” stamped on his back. Him with a wife with the red in her hair and a fistful of pom-poms inside.
He hadn’t known it when he’d popped the big question, but he’d picked one that would end up loving him, in part, for his legs. Especially in the winter. When her feet were like ice. And his legs were not. A girl who’d consider him a prime source of heat (a radiator, if you will), begging him to “shoot for a radiance factor of 6” as he climbed into bed.
In years past, he’d used that limb to install his offspring and their sundry car seats and booster in the back of a tiny Corolla. Squishing them in, he’d use the Left Leg of Leverage to slam the door shut quickly before anyone could tumble out. Now it was being used as a foot warmer.
“I’ll bet you’re the only man in North America who’s been praised for having a radiant leg,” I said the other night from my pillow on the right. In the darkness, I could hear him rolling his eyes on his pillow to the left. “Good job, hon. My feet and I are thankful.”
He was longsuffering, all right. Understanding, too. He knew, this stalwart fellow did, that there were some things about women that a man would never understand. Like how a jaunty spring scarf could call a girl’s name right there in the store. That saying, “Go ahead. I’ll pay for it,” meant the world and then some.
He understood that a happy wife meant a happy life. But he couldn’t understand how a girl could stand before a mirror, draping and tying and rearranging a scarf and call it “fun.” No, he’d never understand that.
Radiant leg. Mayhem index. New terms that made perfect sense in our ecosystem here on The Three.
There was another one that fit, too. Not that I was happy about it, but “it is what it is (to use an overused phrase),” so that’s just how it was, and what was a mother to do?
Death by laundry. More specifically, death by drowning in laundry. That was the third term I’d applied this winter.
It wasn’t like we’d started out with two socks and a hanky. Heavens, no. I was used to tackling the small Appalachian foothills that gathered in mounds by the Whirlpool. Then College Kid moved home. Suddenly, the foothills were mountains, and I was Sir Edmund Hillary. Wearing a jaunty spring scarf.
Where was it coming from? And why were the towels multiplying like rabbits in the back room? What was going on?
It complicated things, too, now that there were six sharing a bathroom. The upstairs shower was out of commission, which re-routed a whole lot of traffic through the small one downstairs.
I could tell we were sharing. Judging by the squishy rug on the floor, either a school of Sea World porpoises had splashed past or the Olympic swim team had come through. My wet socks told the tale, and for a brief moment, I considered a new term — death by strangulation. You can guess which scarf.
In the midst of the mess, I cling to hope. Hope that the index will drop. Hope that the laundry will, too. Hope that the rugs will dry out. If they don’t, I know what to do with that scarf.