March 12, 2009
Here Comes Trouble
We barely put our toes across the open doorway of Gretchen’s house when four-year-old Andrew comes flying at us in a whirlwind of dirt and fingerpaint, waving a paintbrush like it’s a magic wand. His shiny brown hair, cut in a bowl shape, is highlighted with gobs of yellow and red, and his face and arms are smeared the colors of the rainbow. His red t-shirt fittingly reads “Here Comes Trouble!”
I feel myself instantly shrink back, clutching my pocketbook to my chest. Trouble is right. I’m not too good around kids.
Andrew smashes against Mom’s knees and flings his arms around her, leaving purple and red hand smudges up and down her jeans.
“Wow, my big boy!” Mom cries, bending over and kissing the top of his head. “I’m so happy to see you!” She doesn’t even seem to notice the cloud of chaos that surrounds him as she drops her bags and squats down to Andrew’s height.
“Grandma, today me and Magda played chase, and I won. And then she got mad, so I painted her a picture. It’s a car. Magda likes to drive crazy. She always says so. ‘Drive crazy!’ she says. So I made a real big car…” Andrew rushes on without taking a breath while Mom smiles and nods her head.
I carefully step around Mom and Andrew, bending slightly to avoid his flailing, paint-caked hands, and look around.
I don’t really remember the inside of the house from the last time I was here for Billy’s funeral. It’s all a blur of black high heels and suit pants and wilting flowers and fluttering tissues.
Now, I soak it all in. The front door faces a large staircase that sweeps up to the right, and there’s a railing at the top where you could look down to the floor below. The foyer, where we stand, is small but elegant, and it connects a formal dining room to the right and a formal living room left. But that’s where the formality ends.
Right away I notice the house is filled with contradictions: china vases overflowing with Tonka trunks, ornately framed mirrors smudged with fingerprints, stuffy leather couches covered with Spongebob stickers. The floor is littered with building blocks and puzzle pieces; the furniture draped with super hero costumes.
Mom was right; Gretchen does have her hands full with Little Mr. Trouble.
Suddenly, we hear a loud crash from the back of the house, and Gretchen yells.