Mack-Lazy Days

While growing up, Mack was an extremely active kid, and she sacrificed an enormous amount of her personal time and freedom participating in competitive sports. She enthusiastically and willingly made that sacrifice, but it made her a very practiced and determined lover of her infrequent lazy days. Mack took her limited free time very seriously. She redefined what it meant to relax, she took literally her declarations to “do nuttin,’” and she really did know how to let it all hang out. Mack earned her leisure time and, mostly, I was content to let her waste away much of her quiet down time. But it is absolutely true that sometimes the greatness of her sloth terrified me.

Let me paint a typical scene in Mack’s room on one of her famous Mack-lazy days: The curtains are drawn, and the room is dark. Mack is wearing baggy sweatpants (likely without underwear), and she is flat on her back on a bed crowded with clothes, her book bag, a sweaty basketball jersey, and maybe even a pair of her favorite cheap flip-flops. There is a dog stretched out next to her. On a pillow, which she is partly sharing with the dog, her head is propped up just enough so that she can chew and swallow without choking and can see the screen of her laptop, which sits across her pelvis. Warhead sour candies and Miss Vickie’s jalapeño chips or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are scattered about, and an open 32-oz bottle of blue Gatorade is balanced precariously at her waist. Her lips are blue, and there are crumbs on her face and her fingers. She is watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or Sponge Bob, or Parks and Recreation. She is chewing and chortling and texting with two or three friends. When I interrupt Mack’s blissful laziness to ask a question or to say hello, she answers with a belch or a grunt; and then she cheerfully shoos me out the door by waving her hand in my face.Mack eating chips

I was outwardly horrified by these Mack-lazy scenes that I witnessed so frequently over the years, but I secretly wished that I was capable of achieving such nirvana in my own life. For sure, Mack knew how to power lounge like nobody’s business. It was as if she was making up for all of the leisure time she sacrificed along the way. It was like she supposed that in order to be productive in life one also has to know what it feels like to accomplish absolutely nothing at all.

I think that excessive inertia (if that is even a thing), junk food eaten in bed, and mindless television was Mack’s not-so-secret recipe for refueling her soul on the lazy days so she could better face the busy days. Since Mack had way more busy days than lazy ones, I was content to let her practice her particular brand of recuperative medicine. And, who knows, maybe it was exactly those Mack-lazy days that made my girl ever content and ever cheerful, so well-balanced and calm, always patient and sweet. Maybe if we each practiced a little of Mack’s crazy-lazy medicine, we could all be as easy and gentle as she was.

It’s MY room, Mother

Like all kids, Mack hated household chores: but like most good kids she would begrudging do many of those we required of her. However, there was one chore that she unabashedly refused to do and no amount of weekly allowance, begging, yelling, grounding, or bribes motivated her to oblige me. Mack’s bedroom was in a perpetual state of nuclear disaster, and it was a serious topic of contention in our mother/daughter relationship. While I did not expect her to possess my obsessive level of organization, it bothered me a great deal that she seemed not to care that glasses with an inch of iced-tea were growing mold, that her basketball uniforms were wadded up in a pile of dirty clothes, that her history text books were under the bed, or that there were more jeans and shoes in the middle of the room than here were in the drawers or in the closet. I would yell, and she would just look at me, shake her head, and say things like, “What’s the big deal, woman? It’s MY room, mother, and you don’t have to come in here.” Exasperated, she would lead me out and close the door.

Since our family was a busy one, days and weeks at a time would pass when I would just clench my teeth, shut my eyes and pretend I did not know the extent of the disorder on the other side of her bedroom door. Therefore, Mack’s room was most always a Super Fund site, her close friends grew accustomed to the mess, and even occasional visitors were witness to the disorder. One time, Mack was babysitting the three young daughters of some close friends of mine at our house. There was no time for a fight with her to clean her room, so I begged Mack to keep the kids downstairs and out of her bedroom. These little girls looked up to Mack, and I did not wish her to set a bad example. She rolled her eyes at me as if I was being unreasonable, but she agreed and I trusted she understood my point. After several hours, the adults returned from dinner, and our friends all went home. Apparently, as soon as the three children piled into their minivan upon leaving our house, they all started chattering about how much fun they had hanging out with Mack, how good she was at making boxed macaroni and cheese, and how freaking cool she was because her room was so messy!

Over the years, I learned to accept some level of messy. But on rare occasions when we needed her room for overnight guests or I had reached my limit, I would do battle. Sometimes, I could coax Mack into a good cleaning if I helped her and gave her money for iTunes or promised her a trip to Taste of Thai when we were done with the work. Mostly, she ignored both my shrill and my subtle efforts to make her more organized. At some point during high school, Mack shoved her twin bed into what had previously been a little study nook in her room. This rearrangement opened up some floor space in the middle of the main part of her bedroom perfect for bouncing or spinning her basketball or sitting around with her buddies. It also tended to be a larger space for much larger messes.

One summer morning before leaving for work, I stepped into Mack’s bedroom to say goodbye, and there were clothes all over her floor. I threw one of my best fits about the mess and told her how terrible she was because she couldn’t possibly know which heaps were clean and which were dirty. I angrily told her that she had damn well better have all the clothes sorted, folded and put away by the time I got home or she wasn’t going to be seeing her friends that night. She smiled that crooked grin through sleepy eyes and said, “yeah, yeah, mom, I know.” When I peeked into her room after work that day, I was astounded. The clothes were gone. There wasn’t a trace of dirty dishes, her desk was clear, and it even looked like she may have run a dust mop over the floor. I was so proud of her and I told her so. This was great progress she was making, and I even got her to admit that it did feel pretty good to exist in such a clean environment. And then, I let her go out with her friends that night.

The next morning when I called to her before leaving for work, she didn’t answer. I figured she was sleeping, so I slipped into her room and walked around the corner to her bed in the study nook to give her a soft kiss on the check. And this is what I found…

messy

So I will admit before all witnesses that this was a battle that I never won. Mack did not think keeping her room clean and organized was important, necessary, or worth her effort. I know now that on this point she was right and had been right all along. It did not really matter that her basketball uniform was wrinkled and stinky, that her favorite skinny jeans hadn’t been folded since the day she selected them from the shelf at American Eagle, or that one of our glass tumblers may have been sitting on her headboard for six months (even if it did have moldy tea inside of it). Looking back on it, I am glad she didn’t waste a lot of her precious time folding her clothes, dusting her bookshelves, or worrying about what people might think about the mess. She had far more important things to do in her life, like hosting Glee parties with her best friends, wrestling with one of our dogs, practicing her British accent, or just lounging on her bed in the study nook staring at the ceiling and enjoying that fact that she could so easily outsmart her Ph.D. mom.