The Ant Parade & Other Reasons I Suck as a Housekeeper
There were ten of them, maybe twenty, walking in a fine delicate line across the counter top as another group of four or five worked mightily on picking apart a flake from a piece of bread in the corner of the windowsill. How’d that crumb get up there? More important, how did those ants get in?
No matter that it’s spring and it really must be that time of year when not just the plants start thriving but the insects do too. No matter that every house has some vulnerabilities and is bound from time to time to catch a critter from the outside world that’s all the time banging to get in. Those ants were there because I’d failed my duties as housekeeper (for if not me, then who?)
Just as I am certain that most other parents at 7:30PM are wrapping their warm, bubble-bathed little cherubs in freshly laundered doggy-hooded towels while I am standing over the Belgian waffle maker with my kids putting the finishing touches on “dinner,” I am sure that other parents the world over have sufficiently caulked, sealed, and stuffed every last opening in their home to prevent the influx of unwanted visitors brought about by spring sunshine and rain.
Why is it that my mind’s reflex is to see disorder in the world and internalize it, as if tidiness is a sign of my success, and disarray–or life sprouting in its own uncontrollable form–is a sign of weakness?
God doesn’t care if my house is clean, so why do I?
But back to the ants. They are my fault, you see. Because for one week, I left little wisps of grated cheddar cheese and cereal dust and edges of chopped onion to make their rounds across the floor as little feet (and mine) tracked dust and dirt and debris from this corner to that. For one week, I let all that sit, only to sweep it up right before we left on a five-day vacation.
But it was too late by then–a small pocket of the ants had already sprouted. A few mean sprays of RAID put them back in their place temporarily; a clean floor kept them gone during our absence.
But when the humans and their crumbs returned, so did the tri-segmented critters.
Their copper-colored bodies marching across the countertop with guiless precision and the efficient line that they formed as they followed their prescribed path up the side of the window frame (to who-knows-where beneath the curtain rod?) assaulted me with a sort of “A-ha!” (The guilty, I-caught-you kind of aha–not one of Oprah’s cool little lightbulb moments).
“A-ha!” the voice said. “I knew you couldn’t keep a good kitchen.” Bottom line, the ants had me beat, as they were far more effective and tidy.
Pardon my language but there was only one thing I could possibly say to myself in response to this voice of criticism.
So a few ants got in? So there are still breakfast pans and dishes on my countertop–from three days ago. So there are paper shopping bags all over the house in different nooks and crannies stuffed with clothes to take back, belated birthday gifts to wrap, laundry that never got folded, and broken sunglasses from last summer.
What matters is the journey, right? The love and the good-memory-making. Tonight my daughter told me I’m her “really good buddy” as I kept her company near her blue plastic potty (not glamorous but heartwarming nonetheless). My four-foot tall son still gives me hugs and kisses. His requested reward for having practiced piano tonight? That I would lay in bed after lights out and cuddle with him. When I wake on Saturday mornings, my husband tells me I’m beautiful. Really! With that kind of love floating around this household and all this good living, how bad could a few ants really be? (But just in case, I’ve laid the traps.)