Sometimes I feel like Andy Dufresne from the movie Shawshank Redemption, only without the dank prison walls or the murder conviction. I certainly lack his look of perpetual calm as he strolls through the "yard."
My prison walls have a fresh coat of paint and new trim. And our "yard" is littered with toys and weeds and other objects a more genteel writer might avoid mentioning at all. While I don’t have shackles or chains, I do have a dog and an ever-expanding array of consumables that don’t seem to ever get fully digested.
Not only is our lawn a mess of unmentionables, our house is cluttered with the damage of nearly six Christmases, six birthday parties and just as many years' worth of weekly trips to the grocery store and the local discounters during which some little plastic something always wound up coming home with us.
It's almost too painful to survey the wreckage because of guilt, or, more specifically, my inability to resist the ubiquitous two-part question: "Wow, that-looks-cool, mom. Can I have that?"
Some people look around in the spring and try and rid themselves of winter excess; but fall is when I look to fatten up the Army of my Salvation.
I am reminded of the "Shawshank" protagonist not entirely because I feel trapped in a prison of things, but also because of how Morgan Freeman's character, Red, speaks of him during that crucial point in the film where we realize Dufresne has done the impossible: he engineered his escape while under the careful watch of his captors.
He says: "Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure, and time. That, and a big God-damned poster. Like I said, in prison a man will do anything to keep his mind occupied. It turns out Andy's favorite hobby was totin' his wall through the exercise yard, a handful at a time."
So in some strange way, It's Red's voice I hear in my head as I sweep the broken crayons off the floor and into the dustpan, silently dumping them into the trash whenever my tiny jailors are looking the other way.
I am reminded of the crinkle of the pin-up girl posters Dufresne toiled under late at night, and the tiny rock hammer that should have been futile, as I tiptoe through my ittybity warden's bedroom late at night, extracting clothes and toys she's outgrown to hide them away.
With respect to time and pressure, I am cunning. A trip to the park with her father offers enough precious time to rid the tub of moldy, soap encrusted toys and line the bottom of the recycling bin with precious, albeit quickly scribbled, coloring book pages.
Each time I drag a small piece of the growing pile of belongings out of the house unnoticed, I feel a little lighter. In that instant when I drop bag of last year’s shorts and sundresses into the donation bin, I feel — as the character, Dufresne, must have when he let the bits of his cell wall fall through his fingers — that much closer to freedom.
I've even learned -- through other mothers in partnership of such crimes -- to cover my tracks with only a fresh face and a little slight of hand whenever the spotlight glares upon my deeds.
"Mommy, have you seen my little doll (that I haven't ever played with but because it's now missing I've somehow remembered having owned it).”
“Oh, dear. I don't know," I say with my hand spiraling into the air, signaling toward the considerable clutter still remaining. "It must be around here someplace."
When she looks in the direction of my airy wave, shrugging her shoulders satisfied with my answer, wouldn't you know … the calm I've been waiting for washes over me.