Growing up in the 1970’s we spent a lot of time outside and going to friends’ houses. We didn’t have video games to entertain us. One warm afternoon, I was at my friend Carole’s house, in the kitchen with her mom. The kitchen was dirty; the floor hadn’t been swept in days, there were dishes in the sink. I watched a few fruit flies in buzz by. My mother had always kept a spotless kitchen, and I could almost hear my father’s voice in my head saying, “What kind of slob is this?”
I was the oldest of our group, All of us kids were ready to go outside to the yard. But Diane asked me, “Hey, would you like to play battleship?”
I was surprised. “Sure.”
She could have said, “Hey, help me clean the kitchen and I’ll give you five bucks,” which is kind of what I expected her to say.
We spent the afternoon talking and playing Battleship. The dishes waited, the floor waited, the fruit flies needed shooing, but we played Battleship and talked to me like I was important.
While other moms may have been passing down secret recipes in their kitchens, or cleaning the clean, Diane thought it was worth talking to me, and spending time with me.
As I am now fifty years past this experience, I realize that she did give me a gift. Time. Attention. A listening ear. These things are truly priceless.
A mopped floor will need to be mopped again. Dishes will need to be washed again. But today will never come again.
Diane inspired me to choose what is important. Yes, we all want a clean house. But children grow fast and then they move on.
It was one afternoon of my childhood, but it reminds me to stop and listen to children when they have something to say. Watch them on the swings when they ask. Play a board game. Those times go by, and there will always be time to mop the floor another day.
I realize this is a different kind of inspiration. We did not solve the problems of the world that day, or discuss world peace. We did not overcome great obstacles, break the glass ceiling or get new laws passed.
Many times in my life when I am feeling inadequate to the task, I think back to that afternoon and draw strength from it. She may not even remember that day or what it meant to me. But I remember that day I was more important than the badly needed to be done housework.