Sep 16, 2009
I must’ve inherited it from my mom – this thing for orderliness. She arranged cans in the cupboard so that all the fronts of the labels faced you as you opened it a la Sleeping with the Enemy. And on the spectrum of calm to fanatical, she was probably at about over-the-top zealous when it came to preventing glass rings. If there was a box labelled “Christmas” or “Halloween”, you’d better believe that there would never mistakenly be a snowman or stocking in the Halloween box or a pumpkin or bat in the Christmas box. This would be total anarchy in her world.
Now I am not as extreme as my mom, but I have always had a fondness for neatness and organisation. I’ve always admired a tidy underwear drawer. Stacks of papers with a few wayward documents have called out to me to help them in achieving total alignment. I’ve heard crookedly-hung pictures in complete strangers’ homes beg me to straighten them. And, my CDs and DVDs are all alphabetised.
This shipshape, spick and span aficionado has had to make serious compromises and not always by choice. I think that once you’re a new mom and you’d like to use your one hour a day for yourself to eat or sleep as opposed to clean the hard water stains in the shower, dust tops of door frames, or iron a pile of wrinklies, you learn that there is a certain beauty in disarray.
Enlai and I were playing with Play-Doh the other day, and while I usually get a little freaked out when he mixes the different colours to such an extreme that there’s no finding a solid colour in the hodgepodge any longer, I managed to relax. His creation was actually a beautiful, marbleised mixture of colours. There was a time – not so long ago – when I aimed to put each solid colour back in its appropriate little canister so that the next time we wanted to make green beans or peas, we could rely on the green canister to help us achieve this. Same with the orange in helping us to make carrots or satsumas, and the yellow with bananas or lemons. Lately, Enlai has wanted to make quadruple-layer cakes, rainbows and “pods” – what I once deemed multi-colour madness.
I introduced solid colour “pods” a few months ago, suggesting we make little lily pad shapes to set his dinosaurs and animals on. It was a site. We had an entire table covered in pods, each with its own creature on top. All of a sudden, he started taking all the creatures off, and mixing all the pods together. I took a deep breath, let go and partook in the mishmashing. It was cathartic. It was therapeutic. It was a mess to clean up. I didn’t know which canisters to put these new colours in. As far as I know, Play-Doh doesn’t make a greeny-fuschia-mud colour.
I was so proud of myself for letting loose, I called my dad to tell him of my accomplishment. He asked, “Is it now at the marbleised stage or is it mud already?” Obviously, he learn to let loose years ago.
Next week on the agenda: I think I’ll unleash this disorderly monster and throw a tan sock in with the dark colours when I do the laundry. Either that or I might go absolutely wild and put one of Enlai’s pterodactyls in with his animals or one of his bears in with his dinosaurs. Somebody may need to stop me.