Outside, snow falls in that Norman Rockwell way; quiet and tinged with vintage promises. The kids are wrapped up and reading or tromping snow in and out of the house. And this is the day you decide to clean the tile floor in the kitchen. This is the day you realize that those vintage promises are as yellow as they paper they’re printed on. Because who’s the smart one polishing the floor while the dogs and the boy track first winter’s muck into your clean house.
You’re literally on your knees. It’s Sunday. Another Sunday you didn’t go to church because…because good reasons. Reasons you can’t formulate. Good, hazy, insubstantial reasons. Your reasons. But you had a quiet breakfast with your dearest one, and you talked about church. And the kids. And where are we now. And hasn’t life changed? And isn’t it weird. And where do we go from here?
But as you carry the bucket of soapy water to the floor, and as you hike up your jeans, and wriggle in your boots, because you hadn’t planned on cleaning the baseboards, but we have to roll with these domestic impulses, you feel it. A tight knot, a chink of hard hope deep down inside. And you think, maybe. Maybe this cleaning of the grime from the baseboards will be like wiping the slate of your heart clean.
You are the mom. You are the wife. You are the child of a risen king. You are the employee, the daughter, mother, sister. You love from the wildest, untended places. Your love is fierce, and strong, and it is somehow tied to the whiteness of these baseboards, to which clumps of dog hair cling. Wads of gum or hard candy from Halloween have dissolved into a sticky mass; they mock you and your selfless, baseboard cleaning love.
But you sigh, and you rinse the Magic Eraser, and for a moment, you think that white sponge is really somehow magic, because you can’t explain how effective it really is. And you continue.
Then, a child reminds you that you have failed. Failed again to retrieve from a certain store a certain item this child needs. NEEDS like she needs oxygen. She has waited WEEKS for this item. Why can’t you remember?
And then her sibling marches in, with the dogs and the neighbor kid in their muddy, snow crusted boots. They want a snack. It has to go in the microwave. You know? The microwave in the kitchen whose floor you just cleaned. You think a string of four letter words. Maybe some of them actually come from your mouth. Is that your prayer? Or is that the surrender?
The tile floor is clean. And your prayer is the one of the needy. The prayer of the one who needs to share her burdens, who needs to surrender the weight of the dirt. Somewhere. Anywhere. Like on your knees in a mostly clean kitchen, surrounded by the chaos of community and the tendrils of family that bind, cling, secure and promise. Because prayer really does happen when you’re on your knees.