A campaign to keep moms at home.

We all know that the mom is the most important part of any house. She cooks, she cleans, she gives advice, she is brave enough to clean the nasty food-gunk out of the drain (which we all know is toxic and highly explosive). She holds it all together. So, when mom is gone, things tend to get a little… hairy.

When I lived at home, I had to play mom while the real mom was gone. I did everything except the drain gunk. Now, I am gone, and Josh has to take over.
Josh is the “middle brother.” When mom is home, she calls him “Sloppy Josh,” because he leaves a trail, she says. You can tell where he has gone, because he leaves his belongings in his wake… it’s like Hansel and Gretel and the breadcrumbs. He’ll always be able to find his way from his room to the kitchen just by following his trail (not that finding the kitchen would ever be a problem for him anyway).

But, when mom is gone, somehow Josh manages to turn into Mr. Immaculate Housekeeper. He washes the dishes, cooks, does laundry, and takes Caleb (the youngest brother) to school. I don’t know if he takes care of the drain gunk, but he does a darn good job of emptying the dishwasher.

Mom was gone for the weekend. So was dad. The only people left in the house were three boys, and Josh was the elected housekeeper.

Mom and Dad left on Wednesday. I went over to the house on Friday to check up on things. No one was home, so I crept in, a little frightened of what I might find. I was very pleased to find a rather clean kitchen. The drainboard was full of clean dishes, the dishwasher had been loaded, and the counters were wiped down.

Then people came home. Josh and Caleb walked in the door. Caleb took off his shoes in the kitchen, left his backpack on the table, put a water bottle on the counter, and took off for his room to read a book.

Tyler came home from work. He left a cooler full of trash on the floor in the kitchen, left his boots by the bar, and got a drink of water and left the glass in the sink.

“Can’t you guys clean up after yourselves?!” Josh called after them.
There was no response.

I tried to console Josh by telling him a story about a time that I cleaned the whole house when Mom and Dad were gone. Within 20 minutes of me finishing, the boys had messed it up. Josh didn’t look encouraged.

Tyler reappeared and got another drink of water. He put the glass on top of the dishwasher, and left.
“Put it IN the dishwasher!” Josh yelled after him. Tyler didn’t stop.
Later, Josh told me, “Tyler and Caleb are kind of like hamsters. You just change their papers every once in a while… they’re not going to help you, but they’re sure not going to complain, either.”

Yesterday, hours before mom and dad were to return home, I made a trip to the house to see if Josh needed any help. A well-known fact is that the hours leading up to mom’s return are critical: it’s a make-it or break-it time. It’s one last chance to get the house spotless before they walk through the door.

Josh tackled the kitchen, and I tackled the floor. He washed dishes, and I mopped. Then we set off to tackle mom and dad’s closet.
See, a rack of clothes (and other things) had fallen off of the wall that morning. How do things like this happen? We don’t know. We just know that their closet looked like a tornado had gone through it, followed by an earthquake and then possibly a herd of cattle.

We created a makeshift clothing rack out of a broom handle and some chairs, and then hung the clothes on it. We picked up a laundry basket full of pictures and cards all four of us kids had given mom… I think she has things saved from when I was three. We gathered up video tapes and pieces of a very old video camera.
Josh decided he needed to take the actual shelf down, which was still dangling from the wall by one bracket, like a half-pulled tooth. I was straightening up our beautiful broomstick closet when he started yelling.

I raced into the closet to find Purkle, a very ragged purple teddy bear (and very old member of the family) dangling by one leg from a corner of the shelf.
“Purkle!” I yelped, snatching him away from death’s doorstep.
“Where should I put this?” panted Josh, staggering around with the closet shelf in his arms.
“Um… on the couch!” I answered.
“Sure! Mom and Dad won’t want to sit down… they’ve been sitting all day,” Josh reasoned, plunking the shelf down.
I propped Purkle up on one of our closet-chairs, put a dress and a big hat on him, and shut the bedroom door.

Was the day over, though? Not yet. Just as the bedroom door closed behind us, the backdoor to the house opened and closed. And there stood Grandpa, who lives across the driveway in what we call “the cottage.”
Grandpa had a huge grin on his face… and tons of blood running down his forehead.
I froze. Josh froze. Grandpa grinned.
“What happened?!” I hollered.
“Grandma and I got into a fight!” he chuckled.
“No, really… WHAT HAPPENED?” I hollered louder.
“I fell,” he said, sobering up a bit, but still grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
Just then, Grandma came in from the laundry room. “He got in too big of a hurry to get over here and start our laundry,” she told me. “He fell on the patio.”
He had scratches on his forehead and nose… and a bump the size of a golf ball growing on his forehead. Not a bit of exaggeration there, either (and that isn’t sarcasm!).
I cleaned him up, made sure he still knew his name and had clear vision, and let him go home. Josh checked up on him a few times throughout the rest of the day.

Mom and Dad came home to find a clean kitchen and floor, their closet transplanted to the middle of their bedroom, a very dressed up purple teddy bear, and Grandpa with a very large lump in the middle of his forehead.

This is why moms should never leave.



  1. I LOVE this! My boys need to read it, unfortunately, I don’t have a Josh, fortunately, Jennifer is my Lacey! She comes to the house and gives the marching orders. Love a clean house when I get home.

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