The story of She of the vacuumed yard

Perfect Mother lives in our neighborhood, in the house with the vacuumed yard.

Although we have only been inside once, we know the kitchen’s cookie jar is always full and the sun room’s curtains are homemade.

Perfect Mother goes to church. She eschews long baths for long talks with her children.

Nevertheless, she paints her nails, and they stay painted, and then she lifts up that painted hand and calms the storms that rattle the pines out front.

We cheerfully hate her.

She has time to go over homework, yet she knows when to back off. She never actually tires, so when the children are tucked in and dreaming about merry-go-rounds and gentle lions, she settles in for meaningful time with her life-partner. They love each other and say so. We’re pretty sure of that.

The school calls, but only to tell her of her child’s latest triumph. The populace sings her hosannas in the streets.

And when her children graduate at the top of their class, they throw back their tassels and start their speech, “I want to thank my mother ...”

The list is endless because we think of her every time we think we have been Lousy Mother, and that is quite a lot.

Perfect Mother would never find herself screeching up the stairs at a retreating back, “I know I’m talking. I can hear my lips flapping!”

Perfect Mother would never laugh at a belch delivered at table-side, even if it were incredibly well-timed and full-bodied and long-winded.

The rest of us make our mistakes, and then our apologies, and we hope for the best. We could ignore Perfect Mother, but then the teacher calls, fretting that she’s tried really hard all afternoon and hasn’t been able to reach us. And Perfect Mother, her light perfume announcing her presence before we even see her pulls up a chair to our desk and says, “tsk, tsk, tsk.”

Or we fly into a driveway 10 minutes later than we intended to drop off one child at his tuba lesson, and Perfect Mother, who arrived early and is now sitting on the porch balancing her checkbook, frowns down at us.

Or we play a halfhearted gamed of Snake and Ladders, all the while thinking of that good book that is gathering cobwebs on our bedside table, and Perfect Mother, sitting cross-legged on the floor and rolling that dice for all she’s worth, laughs and calls out, “Let’s play one more!”

I have only talked to Perfect Mother in the middle of the night, when I am mopping a child’s hot forehead or curling up in bed two hours too late because of a dragon costume I swore on my honor that I would finish.

Perfect Mother, of course, has been asleep for hours. She remembered to buy the Triaminic medicine, and she finished her child’s costume weeks ago. In fact, they finished it together and have the photos to prove it.

My child murmurs something fever-induced, and Perfect Mother bends to show me those photos.

It’s rude, but I look askance — at my child’s laundry pile, at the bookshelf that has become a repository for everything but books — and will Perfect Mother to move far away where I don’t have to see her or her freshly scrubbed and well rested children as they stand in military formation at the curb to board the bus — on time, no tearful, mad dashes from the porch for them.

(I did hear the children crying once. They came upon a dead bird in their yard, but I assume it fell from one of our trees.)

Perfect Mother’s children will remember homemade bread fresh from the oven. Lousy Mother’s children will remember food that came in a box.

I don’t know if Perfect Father lives in our neighborhood, too.

If he does, I’ve never seen him, nor have I ever heard the Lousy Fathers talk about him.

Perfect Mother rules because no matter what we do for our children, it will not — cannot — be enough. And maybe that is the mark of true and deep motherly love, but we can’t say for sure.

Swim meet

Pagosa Lakes Recreation Center will host a swim meet Saturday morning — a first for our Pagosa Lakes Porpoises.

This swim meet will include competitors from Durango and Aztec. We are expecting approximately 60 people and will need to keep the pool closed until 11 a.m. All other parts of the recreation center will remain open. After 11 a.m. the pool and hot tub will be available to our members.

The meet will be a fund-raiser for our local swim team as well as a chance to get some early-season competition in place.