How to Make Friends and Messes and Fancy Sandwiches

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.

Ah, CRAP.

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.

xoxo,
B

……….

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.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
23 comments
  1. Great post.

    When I was 22 I met a gal and told her right off the bat that we were “going to be good friends.” We are. I’m thinking I should approach friendship like that more often.

    My house is a mess right now. I use to be ridiculously clean… I’m so over it now (except for when I’m pmsing or family is visiting).

    Found you via megan’s f.b. page. She and i just met this weekend at a family wedding. Now that I have met her I really want move to Oregon. I’ll bring the Popsicle!

    1. Ha! Thanks for introducing yourself, Denise. Glad to have you on board, ESPECIALLY if you’re a Bringer of the Popsicles. 😀

  2. Pssttt! New 10-year-old best friend’s name is _______. 🙂

    1. *I* know what New Best Friend’s name is. (I also know what New Best Friend’s Brother’s name is… look at me, knowing names! Woohoo!)

      But I’m not sure if New Best Friend’s Mom and Dad want her name out there in cyberspace, so I edited ’til I can get up enough guts to ask them. (I’m a coward, FYI — so this probably isn’t gonna happen anytime soon.)

      You know, because I don’t want to be That Irritating Blogger Neighbor. I’m already That Neighbor With The Kids Who Knock On Our Door To Play Every 30 Seconds. And also That Neighbor With The Dog Who Escapes. And also That Neighbor Whose Yard Is Overgrown.

      Basically, I’m a chicken, is what I’m saying. And I need to buy more Popsicles so I can be a bolder, better friend.

  3. Our living room floor looks like your table AT LEAST once every day–and I’ve really stopped caring who sees it. As another commenter said, I find I do better with just inviting people over on the spur of the moment these days, because then I don’t feel any pressure to be something I’m not. As soon as they walk in my door, they can see that I don’t have it all together, and then I can enjoy the rest of their visit without feeling like I have to keep up any sort of pretense. Thanks for your show of solidarity for real moms everywhere!

    1. Thanks, Sharon. Life without the pretense barrier is more vulnerable, more messy and more fun. xoxo

  4. can we be friends? i’ve got popsicles in the fridge right now…red ones.

    …and yes…aren’t kids so good at making friends wherever they go? i LOVE that!

    1. It’s WAY too late for you, Kristen. I’m just glad we’re back in touch for virtual popsicle-sharing!

      1. i love you bethie!

  5. How nice to know I have company in Messy-House-Land!

    1. We’re more numerous than anyone knows. We could take over the world (if we didn’t trip on all the crap on our way out the door ;))…

  6. Yeah, I had a day like this today. I totally identify! I’ve been canning, picking, drying fruit. I have laundry stacked, stains on the carpet, clutter everywhere, dishes to do, you name it! I’m so behind, and mom stopped by, then went and got my grandma for a visit, and then, as 3 kids were vying for the 2 grandmas’ attentions and the outside dog would randomly tear through the house as the 2 year old let him in, well, a friend and her mother stopped in for a visit, too. It was an impromptu party! Very nice, but eek, I did have my horrifications! But at the same time, isn’t it the way to always enjoy all of the moments of life? Thank you! My neighbor made sure that I paid attention to today’s post. 🙂

    1. This sound like an exact description of my house, Cristie! Except it’s the kids letting the INSIDE dog escape out the front door. Thanks for sharing the camaraderie and thank your neighbor for pointing you this way!

  7. Yep, I’m of the “just come on by” contingent. I get waaayyyyy more nervous and stressed if I have advance notice. For some reason, I think that means I have to totally transform myself into. . .Mrs. Clean only with hair?. Then I don’t enjoy the visit. But since I’m in my mid 50’s now and still have kids at home, I’ve realized it doesn’t matter. If someone is shocked and horrified, they don’t have to come back. But if they want company–come on by. (FYI– having been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue syndrome AGAIN this year, my “living room” is actually my bedroom. Yes, new boyfriend??? Come meet my mom in her pjs.
    It’s a lovely, lovely life since I let go of the Clean House Standard. Had a friend of my oldest tell me recently that she remembers a plaque I used to have in my house. (This is when I was a single mom with 5 kids. and she came from a VERY clean house.) Plaque said “My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.” Sometimes, I wasn’t too sure about the healthy part, but hey–we’re all still alive so I guess it was after all :).
    Anyway, this long novel to say–enjoy your new friends, and hooray to Aden and her Hey. You. Best Friend. (we have one of those. Him: Mom, I made a new friend at school today. Me: Great!! What’s his name? Him: (thinking hard) I don’t remember, but he’s really cool and he’s my new friend. Yea!!! Go for it!

    1. Oh, argh, Cindy; so sorry for the CF diagnosis.

      Letting go of the Clean House Standard? Sounds like a wise, wise move.

      I laughed aloud at “I wasn’t too sure about the healthy part…” ’cause that’s EXACTLY what I was thinking when I read the quote that came before it. Heh heh. Great minds! 😉

  8. I love this!

    I think there are two tiers of friends. Clean house friends and Messy house friends. I feel there is a certain intimacy to letting someone into your home with no preparation. Letting them see your daily crumbs and life’s messes.
    I still remember years ago, one of my best friends, Jen, and her husband were going on vacation. The morning they were leaving, I got a panicked phone call from Jen askiong me to feed their cat and change the litter box. She said, “I know that Carol (her MIL) was supposed to do it, but our house is a complete disaster and if I clean it, we’ll miss our flight. She cannot come over and see my house like this!” Of course I agreed and to this day Carol thinks I have some sort of bizarre attachment to Jen’s cat and insisted I wanted to stop by to visit her.
    Yep, I have friends over every now and then and make myself and my kids crazy trying to make our house spotless, but when I know someone is coming by and I don’t stress over the crumbs under the table and the clutter on the counters, yep- they have made in to my inner circle.

    1. Bahaha! The Jen’s Cat story = hilarious. So, SO funny.

      My mom-in-law, whose house is immaculate like the conception of Jesus, moved to town 7ish years ago. Then we had twins, catapulting our already crazy life into irreparable chaos. Thus ended any pretense of clean house. Praise Jesus and Judy, she has NEVER made me feel badly about the mess, which, let’s be honest, she had absolute power to do.

      Friends who will cover for you and MIL’s who use their power for good? Priceless! Love this, Beth.

  9. My sister, who is somewhat OCD about it, will clean the entire house for expected guests… The problem is, they’re youth group leaders, and they have guests twice a week, EVERY week. Sigh. I on the other hand, will only clean the areas I believe a guest would go, and even then, will only make sure things LOOK organized and not tornado alley victims. Except the toilet. No one should have to suffer a dirty toilet seat, and the rest is easy to clean once you’ve attacked the seat.

    Beth, taking in consideration you have FIVE kids, plus the extras that are friends and such, I imagine food expense is a bit tough. As such, I was thinking you’d be interested in looking up Aquaponics systems. After the initial set up (your genius husband and Marine father come immediately to mind), it seems to be mostly “ignore until you want a veggie or a fish”… Might be good for you and the hectic environment of your family.

    1. “I on the other hand, will only clean the areas I believe a guest would go, and even then, will only make sure things LOOK organized.”

      Yes. This is my exact cleaning philosophy. And it’s not hard to make the jump from that to my “whatever works to get mama some sleep” parenting philosophy. 😉

      You’re SO RIGHT about big families and food bills. I looked up aquaponics. They look AWESOME. I always (always always) say that I can manage to keep my 5 kids and my dog alive, and so I have no room in my life for needy vegetables. I’m not much of a gardener, although I did accidentally grow 3 tiny tomatoes this year – go, me! 🙂 We get our summer and fall produce from Bubba and Sarah King, who own The Collective (farming / Star Trek reference? why, yes – there’s a reason we love them!) and blog about Community Supported Agriculture at http://www.currentlyonthemenu.com. I highly recommend CSA’s… and perhaps shall blog about The Collective soon. Hmmm… literal food for thought.

  10. I so admire you for having friends over. I only have one left at home, and I am scared silly to have anyone drop by.

    1. I think I have a higher embarrassment threshold than the average American woman. For proof, reference, oh, you know, this entire blog. 😉

  11. Oh, yes. Absolutely. THIS is how it is.

    Love this post. Fantastic. Sending top-of-the-fridge solidarity to you.

    And I’m both delighted and entertained to hear about the poop. I’d just leave it there, if I were you. One word: fertiliser. Perhaps a pretty flower will grow there, right under the porch, and you can say to yourself “If it hadn’t been for that poop…” Beauty appears in unlikely places, I always find.

    xo

    1. It’s always SUCH a bummer when my 6’4″ friend, Webb, comes over and is actually subjected to seeing the top of the fridge. And, by bummer, I mean it’s FABULOUS because he usually cleans it. 🙂 True friend? Why, yes. Yes, he is. On the other hand, if he left the fridge-top alone, perhaps a flower would grow there?

      Thanks, Fiona, for your always lovely remarks. You’re a joy.

      zockzos,
      B

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