February 23, 2018

sticky notes

P.J. and I leave each other notes around the house.  We're far from the only family to do this, but our notes, I like to believe, are ... different.

Our son was seven and having some difficulty with completely oblivious to the concept of flushing the toilet in the upstairs bathroom.  When piled on top of little dribbles on the seat, having the loo regularly clog and overflow from catcher's mitts of toilet paper, and his missing the toilet and painting the surrounding floor yellow, Jackson Pollock-style, the non-flushing was maddening.  ADHD aside, we had to get through to him.

One day a sign appeared on the bathroom wall, scrawled on a sheet of notebook paper:

"Remember to flush the toilet :) "

Efficacy was not achieved.

A week later, another sign replaced the first, on a larger sheet of paper:

"Flush the toilet!  Thank you!"

A staggering amount of no change whatsoever took place.

Two weeks later, the final notice was posted, written in fat black marker on a full sheet of neon orange poster board:


Sometimes, that one worked.  Sometimes.  At least he noticed it.

Mostly, the notes are between P.J. and me.

The seminal note was actually straight from the mouth (crevice?) of a fortune cookie, opened by P.J. on our second date.  Instead of something inane and cryptic like "You will have windfall when least expected" or "Determination come to he who is determined to find it," hers said this:

"This person's love is just and true.  You may rely on it."

It might be the sole and enduring reason that she chose me.  The note is still tucked, to this day, up in the corner of her bathroom mirror.  I love the fuck out of that little old scrap of paper.  

Throughout more than a decade of marriage, we've left each other Post-It notes with a heart followed by an ellipsis drawn on them.  We'll find them from each other in the refrigerator, in our medicine cabinets, tucked into our work totes or purses, under pairs of jeans in dresser drawers.  Then we'll recycle them when we find them, and hide them in the other's path.  

Others are fun bits of commentary.  P.J. once opened a cabinet and found a note stuck to a package of seaweed crackers that I had opened and tried the night before, with a skull and crossbones drawn on it.  I didn't think they tasted so good.  And I've had a note appear in my lunch box, which was packed the previous night and contained peanut butter, that simply read "Ewww."  She abhors it and was feeling expressive.

The kid has found notes stuck to his backpack some mornings.  After being informed by him one evening that there's no such thing as luck, I left him a note on the morning of a big test that read "Good luck pattern of chaos in the universe!"

We have a small marker board in the kitchen where we [usually fail to] write out our weekly menu and items that need to be wedged into the grocery list.  There is a bogus perception that my handwriting on it is ridiculously illegible, so sometimes, there's a note above "Ziploc bags" that says "Wut?" and an arrow drawn to the offending passage.  The next morning, there's an arrow drawn to "Wut?" and a note that says "Can't you fucking read?"  That afternoon, in a different color of marker, another note appears that says "My moms are fighting.  I need therapy."  Doodles frequently appear among all of this.  

Some messages aren't written.  Yesterday morning, I found a box of Chocolate Frosted Flakes on the counter that had been quite obviously opened by the kid.  In other words, the top of the box and bag inside looked as though a starving cheetah had grown opposable thumbs and clawed it open.  It was sitting wide open, getting stale and inviting insect life, and in its condition, Tab A had no hope whatsoever of copulating with Slot B.  I visited the junk drawer and withdrew a roll of invisible tape, and placed it neatly beside the cereal box.  When I came home, I found that this had been ignored.  "Did you not get what I was trying to say?" I asked him.  "Well, what am I supposed to do, peel the tape off every day to get to the cereal?"  


When I left for work this morning, the cereal box had a new piece of tape across the top and a message written in Sharpie that said "END OF THE WORLD."  With the requisite arrow pointing to the tape.

The note-exchanging weaves through our family life and connects us.  We face not only the standard challenge of  having hyper-scheduled American lives, but also misaligned work schedules and biological clocks.  I rise early, work early, come home well before five-o'clock traffic thinks of forming.  Dinner, taking our son to his father's house for the evening, errands, chores, and all of that other stuff that seems to eat evenings and steal time.  P.J. works something resembling a second-shift schedule, so while we see each other enough to remember who lives in the house, we don't get a lot of opportunity to say all of the things that need to be said.  Those heart-ellipsis notes are fundamental.  

All of the sticky notes passed between the three of us that contain bits of our love and anxieties and mutually fucked-up senses of humor form a bond that would make Gorilla Glue slide its hands into its pockets and slouch and walk away, defeated. 

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