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Slices of Life: Returning home to disarray

My husband and I recently indulged in a couple days away as a couple to celebrate our anniversary. When we partake on such expeditions (which isn’t often) we both understand the significance of the outcome. That is, the outcome upon returning home — to a house inhabited by our three sons, some official adults, some nearly so.

They try. Oh, we know they try. They even keep tabs on the exact timing of our return so they can make an attempt at a clean up. We appreciate their efforts. But we also fully appreciate there will be disarray. And crumbs. And a surprise or three. Sometimes the surprises are even good ones. 

They did not disappoint.

First the disarray:

Of the three bathrooms they had access to (this does not include the backyard), only one was left with shreds of toilet paper. In the other two they’d been using facial tissues as a backup. The paper towels were depleted as well. I only hope they didn’t flush them. Fearing the answer, I didn’t ask. (Don’t ask. Don’t tell.)

Nerf bullets were scattered on the floor. It was no surprise. We come home to Nerf bullets all the time. Thankfully there was no blood. Nerf bullets typically do not produce blood.

Speaking of fluids, we were completely out of milk. Half and Half was out of the question. As I didn’t notice this until the morning following our return I was forced to drink coffee of the high-octane version. My boys owe me. 

It only follows we were out of food. Imagine life without frozen pizza. They’d been forced to make their own omelets. After the eggs ran out they’d been relying on peanut butter for sustenance and we were even depleted of that. Living conditions for them had become pretty dire. Luckily, they still had running water and canned soup.

There was a broken light bulb in the bathroom garbage can. Unfortunately I discovered it when my foot discovered a shard of errant light bulb glass on the floor. Ouch! The bulb in question came from a ceiling fan above our bed. I don’t even want to speculate as to how it became broken, but it’s safe to say a Nerf bullet couldn’t do that sort of damage. 

One of our bed pillows was missing. Gone. How does one lose a full-sized bed pillow? I’ve yet to find the answer (or the pillow). 

Now for the surprises:

The cat treats were all gone (not much of a surprise). To their credit, they’d been treating the cats with a backup: tuna. Further to their credit, they did have the tuna can carefully covered with plastic wrap and in the fridge. Two points for responsibility toward pets and healthful food handling practices.

All the goldfish were alive. The boys hadn’t overfed them, which they are wont to do. Another pet responsibility point.

The lawn was freshly mowed. Exclamation point. Their dad was mowed over by that. They hadn’t run over any of my gardens, which in turn mowed me over. They’d moved the wheelbarrow in order to mow and it, in turn, was filled with rainwater, but we’ll ring this one up as an overall good surprise.

They’d done a couple loads of laundry. By laundry, I mean washing and drying. Folding was still on their to-do list, if they had one. 

The sink was empty of dishes –— because they’d loaded them into the dishwasher! And they are very good –— talented even — at dirtying dishes in extremely large numbers so this was no small feat.

They’d brought the garbage down to the curb and (bonus point here) it was actually garbage day. Who says they aren’t paying attention? 

Some would call it ill-advised to leave three young men in charge of the household for a couple of days. They’d probably be right. But, it was our anniversary and sometimes an anniversary trumps a house of disarray because disarray can be arrayed but an anniversary can’t be rearranged. It only comes around about once a year and if you miss it you lose it. Sort of like that one bed pillow.

— Jill Pertler’s column appears Wednesdays in the Times. She can be reached at