How to Make Friends and Messes and Fancy Sandwiches

Aug 27 2012

A new family moved into our neighborhood this weekend. Like us, they have a 10-year-old daughter. Two minutes after their introduction, Aden invited the kid to our house to play, and the girls happily scampered away. Which makes me wonder why we worry so much about teaching kids social boundaries. Aden has none, and she’s clearly better at making friends than I am. Who am I to hold her back with my overrated, don’t-come-on-too-strong, give-them-some-space, clean-the-house-first, friend-making qualms?

As a matter of fact, Aden doesn’t even know her new friend’s name. She’s just calling the kid New Best Friend. As in, “HEY! You. New Best Friend. Want a popsicle?” And, “HEY! You. New Best Friend. Want to play Wii?”

New Best Friend seems fine with it. The girls are all snuggled up on the couch, making our Wii controllers incredibly sticky and having a blast. And New Best Friend doesn’t seem at all disturbed by the mess.

Meghan and Paula came over last week.

They’re new friends to me, they’d never been to my house, and I invited them to come.

I panicked.

I cleaned.

I mean, what do you do when new friends come over and you have, like, advance notice and stuff? I took a shower and everything.

Now, I didn’t clean clean my house. Who has the time? Nothing inside any cupboard was washed. My window sills are still home to a few fly carcasses. The top of my fridge is… I don’t think I can talk about it.

I just clutter cleaned. I hurriedly shoved toys in baskets and dishes in the dishwasher, or in the sink, or under the sink. I put toilet paper on the roll to be extra classy, and I grabbed a towel for the bathroom so if Meghan or Paula used the potty (oh dear God, please don’t let her use the potty) she wouldn’t have to wipe her hands on her jeans.

You know. The pretend I’m normal kind of cleaning. The pretend I’ve got this life together kind of cleaning.

But then it all went to hell.

I blame Meghan.

She came in. We were nice nice nicety nice. And then she asked in a whisper, “Is your house always this clean?” And I could tell that it wasn’t necessarily a Good Thing. I could tell it was a Be Real question. I could tell it was a ‘Cause My House Isn’t And I Don’t Want To Be Alone confession.


I used to be a fantastic liar, you guys. I was really good at lying. It was practically my spiritual gift. But I’m out of practice, and so I said, “No, Meghan. This is all a lie. My house isn’t always this clean. My house isn’t even this clean right now.”

And I posted this picture on Facebook a few days later…

… so Meghan could see my real kitchen table. Or not-see it, as the case may be.

It was my way of saying, “HEY! You. New Best Friend. Want a popsicle?”

And then Meghan wrote back and, in essence, said, “WHEW! YES, I want a popsicle.”

And then YOU wrote and said, “THAT’S OUR TABLE, TOO. Can we have popsicles?”

And then I sighed in relief at our collective mess, because I remembered — again — that the messy truth is a better friend-maker than a tidy lie.

And then I roasted pretty tomatoes, courtesy of my totally rad local farmer friends,

and I made myself a lovely roasted tomato crostini sandwich with basil cream cheese and lemon cucumber

because I need to prove to myself that I’m not just a mess, either. Heh heh. Sometimes, when I’m holding life’s sweet-but-sticky controller, that’s good to remember.

Here’s to the mess, friends. And to the fancy sandwiches. And to Both/And living.



P.S. Do you ever find that it’s a vicious cycle, this complex life with our dueling desires to look competent and live honestly? To seek out a little bit of pretty and still invite folks into the mess? Talk to me, friends.

P.P.S. There’s still poop under my front porch. I thought you should know.