I have two little boys. They’re not yet two. Neither is capable of stringing together two words. But like they say of twins they communicate well on so many other levels. The verbal language they do use is a kind of hinter language that they’ve developed for themselves so they quite literally babble, gibber, and jabber away. Whatever it is that they are saying, however, it seems to grease the cogs of cooperative work as their latest efforts left me gob smacked.
I live in a ground level apartment that has access to the basement through the front entrance porch to the house. The access has a 3 foot high barrier wall and gate as the stairwell is quite steep. Like most people we keep our shoes in this front porch area on two shoe stands, one a heavy mahogany type thing and the other a cheap light pine frame that we picked up at Ikea to house the growing quantity of shoes. With three young children, the number of shoes in the porch at any one time seems to follow an exponential growth pattern. This means for the most part there are shoes scattered from asshole to breakfast time all over this front area of the house. It is something that moderately annoys me but not enough that I would care to do anything about it myself.
Well yesterday I came home and noticed with some delight that the porch area was spotless. Not a shoe in sight. I can’t say I hadn’t not noticed that there were no shoes stacked in the shelves. It’s just that the pangs of relief and delight I felt at the prospect of someone other than myself having bothered to clean up that mess had blocked any sensitivity I had to reality. I couldn’t see or hear the boys around anywhere so I headed for the kitchen and routinely plonked on the kettle. Then I got this sinking feeling that something was horribly wrong with my judgment. From my experience, not hearing that babbling and squabbling can only mean one thing, assiduousness; but to what purpose.
Immediately the penny dropped and I raced back out to the porch only to catch sight of the boys, one at either end, hauling the lighter of the shoe frames to the edge of the abyss that was the stairwell. They looked tired, they looked beat, they looked as if they had forced their heart, and nerve and sinew to serve their turn long after they were gone and they looked pleased. I moved to the edge of the stairwell drawn by the same macabre fascination one has when witnessing a traffic accident only to see piles of shoes, toys, clothing, paper bags and diapers strewn it like a Taiwan roadside mountain ravine.