Regardless of what technology could offer us, when I was pregnant with the boy, Hubs and I opted not to find out what we were having. When people asked the inevitable question of, “So? Do you know what you’re having?” we would respond by saying, “Yes. A baby.”
Hubs was actually the one who wanted to wait nine seven-and-three-fourths months for the surprise to be revealed. I could have easily been persuaded by the ultrasound technician to just take a peek and not tell Hubs, so that I’d know whether we needed to shop on the left side or the right side of the Gymobree store in Bigger Town, USA. I also knew that I couldn’t successfully keep a secret like that, because my poker face is at a Level Zero.
And also because when I buy a really great gift for Hubs, I sometimes break down and give it to him early, because patience has never been on my list of virtues.
Hence, the boy was one giant surprise for us, even though both of the boy’s grandmothers kept insisting, “We don’t know what color of yarn to buy for the blankets we’re crocheting!”
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I envisioned swirls of pink. And slumber parties where we painted toenails and decorated our faces with exotic mud masks. And giant hair bows. And fuchsia cardigan sweaters over ruffled, pale pink skirts. And mosquito netting above the bed, all tied back with giant linen flowers and butterflies. Imagine my surprise, then, when the anesthesiologist, of all people, yelled out, “It’s a boy!” Because of the draping curtain during the C-section, I couldn’t see. In my drug-induced haze, I remember asking him, “Can you check again?”
Checking again didn’t change things at all.
We weren’t pink; we were blue.
In more ways than one, because our premature baby boy couldn’t breathe, and he was immediately intubated and flown out of Small Town’s hospital to a bigger and better hospital, where he spent two weeks in a NICU on a ventilator.
And that’s when I told Jesus, “I really do want HIM! I want to keep HIM! Please!”
Two weeks later, the boy was fine. He was scrawny and no bigger than the runt of any litter, but he was healthy with healthy lungs.
And I changed my line of thinking to different things, like mud. And sticks. And rocks. And bugs. And fishing. And swords. And water balloons. And laughing at body noises. And Darth Vader.
And honestly? I can’t envision my life any other way. Having a boy is a genuine, precious blessing.
What I wasn’t prepared for, though, as a mother of a little boy, was his ability to stain his clothes with everything this world has to offer. Suddenly, my life was filled with grass stains on the knees, chocolate milk on the collars, ketchup on the chest, and mud on the shirt hems. Because I have two X chromosomes, my laundry skills were minimal. I was clean while I ate. I never used my shirt as a napkin, and it was very rare for me to spend an afternoon crawling on my knees through the lawn and the bushes and the dirt. As a result, I didn’t have a real need to buy exotic bottles of stain remover.
Thankfully, my darling friend, Elaine, was ahead of me in the score of this ballgame, as her son was several years older than the boy. Elaine took me under her Laundry Wing, and she never complained when I called and said, “ELAINE! It was a bloody nose this time! Pale green shirt! Clorox won’t work on pale green! Now what?”
Elaine’s laundry room looked like a classroom in the dungeon of Hogwarts. Oh, her laundry room was bright and cheery and clean as a whistle, because Elaine’s house is the cleanest house I’ve ever been in. But that laundry room of hers had bottles of potions and pots of magical elixirs lined up in perfect order, and she always knew the recipe for what to mix together to fight any stain that could be handed out. I began to realize that if Elaine couldn’t remove a stain from a piece of fabric, it was nothing short of black India ink.
And I think she sometimes even managed to get THAT out.
I also learned that the severity of the stain was proportional to the quality of shirt the boy was wearing. If he had on a cream-colored Ralph Lauren polo, he could sit on a sofa inside of a sterile bubble environment, and some stranger would walk by and hand him a cup of grape juice. If he had on my favorite Gymboree outfit, he would find the only mud puddle in the middle of an August drought to stomp in. If he was wearing a hand-me-down soccer T-shirt from an older friend’s team from years ago which had the left sleeve partially ripped off, which we primarily used for sleeping in, but which we were currently using as a paint shirt, he could paint the entire outside of the house and not spill a single drop upon himself.
That is simply reality with a boy living in your house, and it holds true today.
Last week, the boy wore a bright yellow Under Armor shirt to school. Under Armor shirts are his very favorite, because they FEEL good. He would wear them seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year, if his mama would just take a third job in order to pay for an entire Under Armor wardrobe. Under Armor sucks your checkbook dry in exchange for little shirts made of very little fabric. But low! That giant “UA” logo on the chest means something, and that something translates into AMERICAN DOLLARS. But goodness! Under Armor makes some comfy clothing!
It will probably come as no surprise to y’all that the boy came home from school last week, and his bright yellow Under Armor shirt was covered in ink.
Ink, people. Many, many spots of blue ink, from a ballpoint pen.
I looked in horror as he shrugged out of his sweatshirt, revealing the full extent of the day’s clothing damage beneath that sweatshirt, and I may have screeched like a neurotic owl as I said, “HOWDIDYOUGETALLTHATINKONYOURSELF?????!!!”
It wasn’t just a couple of spots. His entire shirt was slashed with blobs and lines and streaks of blue ink.
THE. ENTIRE. SHIRT.
The boy looked at me and said, “Oh, I had a pen fight at school!”
And, people! He said that with such pride in his ten-year-old voice!
I responded with, “A pen fight?” Never, in all of my years of being a girl, have I ever decided that using a pen as a miniature sword, with the single purpose of marking up my opponent’s clothes, was a Good Idea.
The screech owl continued, as I said, “YOURGOODSHIRTISTOTALLYRUINED!!!”
The boy looked at me and said, “But, Mom! I totally WON that pen fight! I won it!”
Because it was ink, it took me two full hours to come to grips with the fact that we were now the proud owners of a bright yellow Under Armor paint shirt that could be comfortably worn for all kinds of sloppy household projects from here on out.
Because it was ink, it never occurred to me to call Elaine and ask, “Which of your potions will get this out? What’s the recipe that I’m looking for?” My understanding of the situation was simple: INK = PERMANENT. PERMANENT = FOREVER.
The next day, as I picked that little yellow shirt up out of the laundry basket and contemplated washing it versus throwing it away, I looked at Hubs and said, “This would never have happened, if he’d been a girl! Girls don’t have pen fights!”
Hubs looked at me with pride in his eyes and said, “But our boy won that pen fight!” Apparently, Hubs’ competitive nature believes that killing an Under Armor shirt in the name of Pen Fight Victory is something that may have to happen. Clearly, Hubs is incapable of handing out any Laundry Sympathies. The bottom line is that the boy was victorious in his first hand-to-hand, front-line, pen-fighting combat, and both of the boys living in this house thought that this was worthy of a celebration. A ruined $40 Under Armor shirt could be worn with PRIDE, because it simply stated, “I HAVE LESS INK ON MY SHIRT THAN YOU HAVE ON YOURS, AND I WIN! I WIN! I WIN! I WIN!”
As I stood looking at this shirt in my hands, trying to decide whether it was even worth washing or not, I decided to do an online search, because what good is Google if we don’t employ it during the difficult and trying times in our lives? I typed in the words “Getting Ink Out of an Under Armor Shirt,” and I waited for Google to produce a magic answer.
I found all kinds of articles, and the general consensus was that plain-Jane rubbing alcohol would do the trick. I asked Hubs, “Do we have any rubbing alcohol?” And he said, “Yes. Remember? The boy and I bought an entire jug of it to use as fuel in the Bunsen burner, but it didn’t give us a flame like what we wanted, so we bought Ever Clear, which burns like a dream, Baby!”
That’s another issue altogether. If you’re the mother of ONLY GIRLS, I don’t imagine that you’ve ever purchased fuel for a Bunsen burner. Or bought a gas-powered rocket. Or converted a lawn mower into a go-cart. There are some things that only mothers of boys get to experience. I’m sorry about this; no one said that life was fair.
I found the rubbing alcohol, and I used the corner of a dishtowel to blot it onto the ink marks, and, people!!
Every single time I touched the rubbing alcohol to the ballpoint pen ink on the fabric, the ink PLUM DISAPPEARED! It was the most magical, wonderful thing EVER! I spent an entire fifteen minutes, touching ink spots and watching them vanish. I grinned from ear to ear. And then I washed that shirt in cold water with some Tide, and we are back in business.
As Hubs would say, “The Pen Fight Jersey is clean and ready to battle the next opponent!”
And that, people, is a little Laundry Victory that I’d like to share with y’all.
I’d especially like to share it with the mother of the boy’s opponent, who apparently has more ballpoint ink spots to deal with than I did!
Because, HA! Did y’all hear?!
OUR BOY ROCKED HIS WAY TO HIS FIRST PEN FIGHT VICTORY!
And that is a sentence I never would have envisioned myself typing, ten years ago.
And then, do you know what else? The parallel is simply too obvious, but it’s nice to know that Easter is coming, and that, through the power of the cross and what happened on it so many years ago, we can have the messes in our lives blotted out by Jesus Himself, after we’ve done a right-fine job of marking ourselves up. I’m sure that Jesus never has to look in the cupboards of His laundry room and mumble, “Good grief! What kind of cleaner am I going to use to get THAT out of her life this time around?” He pretty much just uses the same stain remover for everything.
Happy Holy Week, people.