We’re having a bit of an issue with chores around here lately. Our days are really long and my pregnant self is pretty tired when I go upstairs to give the little ones baths and put them to bed. So, I leave the boys — all four of them, from 16 to 7 — to clean the kitchen.
Rarely do I go back down to inspect the job. I just save the surprise for the morning. It’s come to my attention that boys have a different definition of “clean” than moms do. I am awakened well before dawn by a toddler insistent on breakfast immediately. And I stumble into the kitchen, often to find it in varying states of something I would not call “clean.”
Yesterday morning seemed no different. I turned on the soft light, so as not to hurt Karoline’s eyes and saw that no one had bothered to clean the counters. I sighed. A big, heavy, discouraged sigh. When were they going to get it? When were they going to understand that a day that begins with the kitchen clean has a far better chance of going smoothly than a day that begins with yesterday’s mess? Even more, when were they going to understand that this detail of daily life was very important to me? I took their disobedience and their lack of caring very personally.
And then I found my glasses. Peering through the lenses with newly corrected vision, I saw that it was not remnants of dinner that littered the countertops, but rose petals. Some male child, after he cleaned the counters, very deliberately scattered rose petals all over the kitchen — on the morning of the final day of the St. Thérèse novena we were praying together. Roses everywhere.
I cried. It doesn’t take much to make me cry lately. I could only imagine what was going through his head. A little guy, he must have waited until his big brothers vacated the room for the night before doing his deed. I can’t imagine him letting them in on it. It was such a sweet gesture, such an improbably romantic notion in a house not known for romance.
The kitchen wasn’t all that clean. The rose petals were beginning to shrivel there amidst pans that weren’t scrubbed very well and a stove that needed attention. It was the beginning of what was going to be a very long day of doctors’ appointments and discouragement. As the day progressed and I began to feel like my intentions for the novena were not answered, I forgot all about the rose petals. Instead, I was focused on all the details and disappointments. I went to bed feeling as if no one had heard any of the prayers I’d been praying for nine weeks (this was not a nine-day novena).
Morning dawned again to the same incessant cry of my little girl. We made our way to the kitchen to survey once more the shortcomings of the previous evening’s work. I reached for a cereal bowl and spoon and saw in the silverware drawer one stray rose petal, most likely carelessly swept there by a hasty boy. One little petal to remind me that I did indeed receive my shower of roses. My intentions were not forgotten. The ending to the story is not yet written. I don’t know how God will answer my prayers, but I know He will. St. Thérèse arranged for a sign to assure me of just that. How else can I explain a rose-covered kitchen at the hands of a 9-year-old boy?