The following is a work of fiction. I began thinking about my own battle between chaos and routine and the following tale just poured out. I’m always working to improve my writing skills, so when I have this inspiration I truly enjoy getting the words out of my brain and molded into a definitive structure. I know this is not perfect and having just read the How to Embrace Imperfection as a Writer by Blake Powell on The Write Practice, I was prompted to wrap this up and post it rather than sit on it for several more days pondering how it could get better. I am always looking for feedback and constructive criticism so I can continue to improve and grow as a writer. Feel free to tell it like it is in the comments.
I’m not sure how it seeped through the crevices I had worked so hard to seal. I’ve always run a tight ship and even converted my wife to this way of life early in our marriage. But one day, probably longer ago than we first recognized its presence, it just arrived, settled in and never left. At the time I was certain it was one of the worst things we could face as a family and would likely be our downfall.
We are a family of fourteen living with chaos.
I’ve always been routine since the first day Mom told me to clean up my room. With every one of my Legos, Matchbox cars and Corgis spread out all over the floor leaving only enough room for a boy of four or five to tip toe through without screaming in pain, Mom finally had enough and politely instructed me to find a good place for my toys or I could start folding and any putting away my own laundry.
With all of the toys spread in several toy universes on the tight, almost industrial carpet which made playing cars and building Legos easier than on shag, most of the cabinets and shelves in my room were bare at the time. I had saved all of my Lego boxes and simply tossed at the bottom of my closet. With bare shelves and boxes galore at my disposal this was the moment my life had been righted toward the path of routine. With zest, I began the process of deconstructing each Lego model and carefully placing each set back in the original boxes. When complete the cars had been neatly lined on the upper shelves as if parked in a dealership and the Lego boxes lined the lower shelves looking more like the Lego aisle of a Toys R Us than a kid’s room.
Since this time I wouldn’t say I have been set in my ways, but slower to adjust to change. When my wife and I first met, she assumed my behaviors related to OCD. As we fell in love and got to truly know each other she realized that had been an extreme diagnosis. I needed structure to be happy and keep down the stress. It was as simple as that. I tried to get her to see the virtues of a structured life but it was not for her. She is a free spirit who acts on pure instincts from impulse, emotion, and gut feelings. I act on thought and logic. We are a pair. The perfect pair.
Twin girls came first, so for a couple of kids in their mid twenties who now suddenly had two kids, the only way to handle this and keep our sanity was to establish an effective routine. My wife was difficult to bring over to my way of dealing with this situation, and the babies did not take to the routine I tried to establish. Chaos is inherently part of life with a baby and more than doubles when you have twins. After setting out guidelines for who would get up for feedings and comfort each night my wife soon realized that the structure helped us both get a little extra sleep and retain most of our sanity. It took time, but she slowly began to see the light.
One the years, more bothers and sisters were added to the crew. As the kids grew they mostly eased into the routine we had established. A couple were a bit rebellious at times, but they soon saw the ways of routine over chaos because the end result was more fun times as a family.
Learning and exploring the world around us added challenges to our structured life. With all of the dance try-outs, auditions, piano lessons, play dates and other activities maintaining a routine was a must.
The sports didn’t really start until our third child was five. At that time tee ball was about the only activity for a boy that young, but by the time our sixth child was old enough for sports, there were quite a few more options. Our eleventh and twelfth kids have pretty much an unlimited spectrum of sports to choose and s I remember it they both tried them all.
You can only imagine the smells of five or six teens coming home from practice and games nearly every day, but I lived it. Eventually it occurred to me I that I could turn the mostly unused basement into a locker room. The old house we lived in had a pair of those slanted basement access doors leading from the backyard directly to the basement. We added some tile, threw a number of metal lockers, added a couple of sinks and cordoned off three rooms for two showers and a toilet. Additional ventilation was added after the smells, which we thought were being contained in the basement started slowly seeping upstairs and through the large, mostly unsealed original air ducts. The final addition was a laundry room and large closet for towels. At one point I considered hiring a laundry service, but by now I knew we our new sports routine had nearly been solidified and this should be the last tweak.
Molly, child number five and Tommy, child number eight, were the the only ones who showed no interest in sports. Of course not all of the other ten were superstars but they each enjoyed the competition and exercise, at least that is how it appeared to their mom and me. Tommy kept mostly to himself and a small gang of friends pursuing more imaginative and intellectual pursuits. Molly pursued the arts. Pretty much all of them. We turned part of the attic into a studio for her to paint, sculpt, write and compose.
Over the years our nemesis chaos kept seeping in, but with the help of the entire family we adapted our routine to keep it at bay. If I do say so myself, I think we did a pretty good job.
The kids are grown and gone, mostly. My wife and I have retired, but couldn’t bear leaving the house that had so many wonderful memories. The locker room is clean and quiet, the studio is more of an art museum, and we keep mostly to the family room and kitchen. We are happy relaxing and enjoying life in retirement.
The Chaos I knew retired along with me, sending his own kids on to live and challenge ours. He still comes by for visits every now and again, mostly when the kids or grand kids come calling. Like my wife and I, he feels younger and gets more active when our our gang of twelve children, ten spouses, two girlfriends, and twenty-nine grandkids all get together. Each family bringing their own child of Chaos along.
It took sixty-five years, but I finally figured out that Chaos wasn’t my nemesis. Chaos was my challenger, my competitor, my foe. My sport had been working to beat Chaos at every turn. He was a respected opponent, and I am a better person for having known him.