A Perfect World Amid The Chaos

In a perfect world, one might expect that a handyman's junk drawer — or anyone else's, for that matter — is theirs and only theirs with which to contend. Jane Esaki photo

In a perfect world, one might expect that a handyman’s junk drawer — or anyone else’s, for that matter — is theirs and only theirs with which to contend. Jane Esaki photo

I have a handyman friend doing some much-needed work inside my house and, as usual, what is supposed to take a few days in a perfect world is taking two weeks.

In the process, my sphere has been turned inside out and upside down. My kitchen table is now like a huge junk drawer, with everything from fresh groceries, toiletries, a cup of stale coffee and half-eaten lunches to measuring tape and a light bulb. Every other inch of the surface is covered in crumbs, sawdust, dirty plastic wraps and a paper bag holding a neglected avocado that’s already ripened.

Turning a blind eye to the mountainous blight, I become Chef Fendelmann in his tall, white muffin-top hat, as I enthusiastically embark on a mission to whip up a delightful meal before my handyman friend arrives for dinner and to later burn the midnight oil.

But as I start to see the dinner coming together, where will we sit and dine?

My daughter, just uprooted from her previous residence and barely settled in my home, is on the couch working on her portfolio and simultaneously listening to Pandora, texting on her cell phone and watching muted TV — in her own chaos amid mine.

Naively, I ask for help to clear the table. Instead of compliance, I unexpectedly hear a shriek, “Don’t make me take care of your mess.”

An unspeakable knee-jerk voice yells back inside my head. Instead, I take full advantage of my waning hormones and try to reason.

But her waxing hormones won’t allow it. Now a young adult with a mind of her own, she has more verve in a minute than I have in a day. She puts up a fight, her urgency greater than mine, but nevertheless simultaneously helps to put things away in the pantry.

Inadvertently, she shuts the door harder than necessary and the loose glass in the door of the cheap Chinese cabinet rattles so hard the sound resembles the earsplitting clash of shattering glass. She too is surprised at the loud racket but conveniently doesn’t apologize.

As she continues to clear off the table, I tell her not to help me.

“I don’t do this,” I say firmly. She goes back to her cocoon and I finish clearing the mess on the table.

I continue cooking, but what is smoldering on the back burner are questions about my competency as a mother. No time to think about that now, though — one should have only thoughts of love while cooking. Only thoughts of love.

The meal starts coming together and a delicious aroma wafts through the house. On cue, before the meal is served, my daughter asks if she can help me with anything.

Again, a defensive voice within me is at the ready. But again, the same silent voice retorts, “Only thoughts of love while eating. Only thoughts of love.”

We all sit down for dinner and, if I do say so myself, the meal is delectable. My daughter and guest agree, and no sooner are we finished eating when my daughter gets up, retrieves the plates with the adeptness of a seasoned waitress and proceeds to wash the heap of dishes at the sink. What a nice surprise!

Hooray for small acts of kindness that rise to the surface despite our individual states of chaos.

That is a perfect world.