Small Talk

Boys will be clean?

Miracles do happen.

 I heard a strange sound coming from the attic. When I reached the top of the stairs, I couldn’t, for a moment, comprehend what I was seeing. It was awesome. It was inspiring. It was beyond my craziest dreams. It gave me hope where no hope had existed.

Teenage boys were using the vacuum cleaner.

I believe I fainted dead away. When the blood finally returned to my brain, I couldn’t decide whether to shout or cry, so great was my joy. I hadn’t felt like this since the first time I actually saw my son put down the toilet seat.

Now the complete truth is that it wasn’t my son pushing the upright, but one of his friends whose mother apparently did a better job than I. I salute her. I suspect that this child is still reluctant to fire up the vacuum around his own house, but that, I believe, is normal. I have seen this occur with the table manners we work so hard to instill, but only make an appearance when our children eat at someone else’s house.

My amazement grew as I came to learn that the boys had been up there for half an hour, actually making a dent in the months of detritus and schmutz they had been leaving behind after each sleepover. There was a bag of bottles and cans, and an enormous bag of trash. The sheets were pulled off to be washed and the array of comforters and sleeping bags had been shaken out the window and tidily replaced. And they had dusted. I get all teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Now I must fight the temptation to think that any of this activity will ever filter down below attic level. That’s fine. My system can only take so much shock, anyway. Besides, one of the loveliest things about teenaged boys is that they neither notice nor give a darn if the majority of my house is a pigsty. As long as there is adequate food, drink and video games, they ask very little.

Now, however, when I sit and reminisce about the joys of motherhood, along with my baby’s first step, his first haircut, his first day at school and his name on the honor roll, there will be the treasured vision of that almost-16-year-old actually picking up candy wrappers trapped in the corner of the attic.

I wait patiently, now, for future special moments. His first car, college graduation, and maybe, just maybe he’ll even wash dishes.

Jean Gillette reminisces about times gone by and notes that her son does dishes with a smile now, in his own apartment. Contact her at