Paper Places

1. assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
2. one in which confidence is placed

I used to give trust freely, like a gift, but I’m not so giving anymore.

“Mom!” says Sam, “You are QUASHING my CREATIVITY!”

Amused, I ask how cleaning up his mess — the scraps, the tape, the crayons, the scissors — how is that quashing his creativity?

“I need it like this,” he explains. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Trust? Sure — but can we clean up some of it?”

“Now you’re starting to BREAK my creativity. When you tell me to clean up, it is BREAKING me. Don’t BREAK me, Mom.”

Seriously. I sound like a kneecap smasher or a wild horse wrangler — instead of a mom who’s just trying to clean the freakin’ kitchen and make dinner.

I simply do not understand how creativity can arise from this chaos. Even while I see it everywhere: the  complex structures made out of paper and tape, the “water slide”; the “amusement park”;  the “life-size Sam figure” lying in front of my dishwasher — this chaotic jumble of mess is too much.

“Sam!” I try again. “Just clean some of it then. How about all the scraps, we can put them in recycling,” I say, hoping to awaken his earnest “Go Green” crusade, when he will tell me again that he thinks we should ditch our minivan and walk everywhere.

But even as I say it, I realize that I spend far too much time trying to create order from chaos and despite my best efforts, chaos has chosen to land smack in my kitchen and my life. Why fight it any longer. Perhaps the best I can do is grab my own paper and tape and start rebuilding. Trust that a form will take shape.

He pulls me to the kitchen floor, right next to Life-Size-Sam and in front of the Fun House made of orange construction paper. “I’ll show you how the roller coaster works!” How do I not grab the paper car he gives me and vroom vroom it up his paper roller coaster. How do I not smile, here on my dirty kitchen floor surrounded by paper places and crayons and tape.

Always the tape.

Give me a paper house built with tape and conviction any day. It’s the effort and actions that count. Charming words, facile and glib, are like a beautifully wrapped box that is empty inside. Unlike my boy’s paper places, they collapse at the slightest breeze.

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