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Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #2 Old Toothbrush

Old Toothbrush Much to my husband’s chagrin, I save old toothbrushes. They are a perfect cleaning tool. There are so many times that you are scrubbing a large surface area and while a lot of the grime is taken care of, the details are missed. A toothbrush is for detailed oriented scrubbing. There are corners and edges that need care too and the toothbrush is often just the right size. When Ryan thinks of this type of cleaning, I think he is picturing an army movie, where as discipline, the enlistees must use their toothbrushes to scrub an entire bathroom floor. This is so torturously detail oriented that it is highly deterred. He wonders why I would bring torture by toothbrush into our home. He may secretly fear that he will end up using the ‘wrong’ toothbrush. This is a legitimate concern which is why the old toothbrush finds its’ home in a junk drawer and not anywhere near where the ‘in use’ toothbrushes are.

I come by the idea of using the toothbrush for cleaning honestly. One evening while I was going through my bedtime routine, I went to brush my teeth. No toothbrush. Now, I am second oldest in a family of eight children, and at this time I am the oldest at home of six still at home and one not yet born. Every now and then, personal items go astray. You learn to deal with a little personal space invasion and you learn not to ask too many questions when your toothbrush has moved from its’ last know location.  It was likely a prize flaunted around in a chubby little fist until a responsible party could rescue and return it.

My thought is that somewhere during search and rescue it ended up in the wrong bathroom. I go and wait outside the other bathroom to look for it. I wait a little longer before I knock and ask if my toothbrush is in there. I am asked to describe the toothbrush, “Yellow, angled head, white bristles.” No such toothbrush in there.

I go to the living room to ask if anyone has seen my toothbrush. In order to get the appropriate level of attention, I stand in front of the movie some of my siblings are watching. The room erupts into a hiss and I ask about the toothbrush. I am asked again to describe the toothbrush. I am now tempted to make up a missing poster for the toothbrush. So, they have seen so many out of place toothbrushes today that they need a description to direct me towards mine? Now that I have interrupted the movie, a task force is assembled to find the TV remote in order to rewind it.

I go into the kitchen to ask my step-mom, Theresa, where my toothbrush is, but mid sentence her eyes dart to the kitchen sink. My eyes follow and there is my toothbrush in the sink and what were once straight white bristles are slightly gray, bent bristles. What have you done? I went to her last because she is the last I would suspect to take my toothbrush hostage. You, of all people, sworn and trusted protector of ‘keeping my bedroom door shut while I am not at home?’  You are in possession of my missing toothbrush?

“Sorry,” she says, “I found it in the hall and thought that it was an old toothbrush.” She may or may not have also said, “I figured if it belonged to anyone, it was probably one of your brothers and they wouldn’t miss it. I planned on picking up another one at the store tomorrow. It was just the right size for scrubbing the edges in this pan.”

I pick up my toothbrush and have a moment. Sorry little yellow toothbrush, for this is not the life, nor demise you were meant for. I begin to wonder what happens during the day when I am at school that would cause my toothbrush to be abandoned in the hallway. I stop mid imagining because I want to be able to brush my teeth in this house again and once I leave in the morning there are no guarantees.  I start to consider that my toothbrush may be better kept in my bedroom.

And the cycle of toothbrush abuse continues. I have been known to commandeer a toothbrush or two in my day for cleaning purposes.


I took Rio outside. His whining and pawing at the door made it very clear that he needed to get out in a bad way. Judging by his frantic behavior inside the house one would think that he is on the verge of exploding and will barley make it down the stairs before his hind quarters betray him. This is not the case. As soon as his little black nose is touched by the outdoor air he is overwhelmed by calm. He feels free to roam leisurely looking for just the right spot to unload. He sniffs the air and ground circling back to check scents again. It appears a labor of love. When he finds the perfect grassy spot, he assumes the position and looks up at me with satisfaction, a near smile.

Being aware of my neighbors and the law, I get my bag ready and step into the grass and retrieve my doggy's prize. I wonder how ridiculous this looks to Rio. After searching long and hard for just the right spot, I move it to a garbage can. Is he frustrated by this, confused? After spending his time in search of the best spot, his wares are relegated to the trash. We head back inside and I wash my hands. Although I am quite sure that nothing has touched me, the thought that I was only protected by a thin piece of plastic moves me quickly to soap and water.

I pour my coffee and leave it on the counter while I go to the bedroom to grab a sweater. I go back to the kitchen to retrieve my cup and venture to the couch to take a few precious moments for myself. These moments are few and far between now that mommyhood is upon me. It is then that I smell it, a foul yet familiar smell. A smell that triggers my gag reflex nearly causing my breakfast to exit.

I suppose that when I stepped into the grass to remove Rio's business on behalf of the neighbors and, well, the law, I used my foot to also retrieve another dog's business inadvertently. I wonder how Rio felt that I threw his prize in the can and brought the other dog's into the house. I paraded it across the carpet and onto my newly mopped kitchen floor and down the hall and into my bedroom. What does this say to Rio? Rio may need therapy.

There isn't a floor in my house not marred by the mess. When I discovered that I was the cause of this smell and my shoe bottom was caked and streaked up the side, my blood pressure elevated dangerously high, so much for the coffee and a moment to myself. No, now my morning was quite literally marked. It was marked by me cleaning from my floors the very thing that should never come inside; the very thing that I pick up while only being protected by a mere thin piece of plastic. Thank you, neighbor.

My shoes are placed outside to be cleaned later and when they are cleaned later can you guess the tool of choice? Lawsuit. I bet you thought I was going to say toothbrush. Alright, you were right I did use a toothbrush but I was thinking about suing someone. I wiped off all the mess I could with an old rag, but eventually I had to do some detail work with a toothbrush. This is important because you really don’t want to miss any of the mess lest you track it inside once more and have to clean the floors again. This job must also be done well because since becoming a mom my hygiene may come into question at times. I would rather not add, “and she smells like dog poop,” to the ever growing list of things I used to take care of about myself. The old toothbrush came in quite handy but it was its’ last hoorah. There is really no coming back from tackling that job.


There is a lot of big picture work in motherhood. Leaving the hospital with Riley, I remember thinking that it was my responsibility to take care of him. It is a shared responsibility but definitely mine. Looking at my little baby now and trying to imagine him as a man is heart breaking and frightening. He already seems to be growing and changing so fast. Trying to take in the whole picture at one time is far too daunting.

I think of all the things that he will need as an adult and all the character traits that I want to see in him. The details of who he will be and what he will do, I haven’t got much control over. However, as his mom, I can’t just ignore my influence, my ability to teach him and provide opportunity for him to learn about life, set goals, and consider for himself who he wants to be.

I see the big picture, an adult who is considered to be one because of more than just age. I also see this little tiny baby before me whose life is consumed by details. Feeding, bathing, diapering, attempting to induce sleep, entertaining, and laundry are just some of the details that need to be taken care of. Getting bogged down in the details can be frustrating. It may be hard to see if what I am doing is having much impact. These details are all a part of the big picture.

Ryan and I are not just figurehead parents in his life story we are the people he lives life with and learns life from. We don’t know every hair on his head but we make it our business to know him as best as humanly possible. We get down into the details, as messy as they might be.

I know what his face looks like when he is tired or just about to cry because something startled him. I know what he sounds like when he is just waking up but not really ready to wake up. I know what frustration looks like on him and silliness. I know that at 5 ½ months old pears were not a favorite but avocados were. I know that his eyebrows turn bright red when he is going number 2 and bath time is one of his favorite things to do. I know what he smells like and how his pudgy hands feel when he is holding my face in them. He has a shy smile were he buries his face and a bright smile when he is giggling.

Motherhood is detail work a lot of the time. I can’t cover big surfaces of his life at one time. It is somehow moment by moment and so fast at the same time. Being a parent might at times feel like you are being asked cover the entire floor space of a warehouse with nothing but a toothbrush. It seems a never ending job but someday my son will be a man and it won’t be in our best interest for me to come at him with a toothbrush anymore.

For now I will enjoy scrubbing behind his ears, in his belly button and between every chubby roll. When I have to change his outfit several times a day I will try to remember to make a game of it because someday he will dress himself. I will try not to cry in frustration when he wakes me up for the umpteenth time at night looking for me, instead I will try to rest into those midnight moments when all he wants to do is snuggle into his mommy.

Son, I am so glad to know you, every detail. You are my little man and I enjoy seeing some new part of who you are each day. Caring for you is the joy of my life. I know that there will come a day when you will grow bigger than me and not need me involved in every detail. I will have to let you go, but your dad and I will always be interested in you, all the details. We love you so much.


Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #1 Permanent Markers

Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #3 Egg Timer

Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #3 Egg Timer

Thoughts from the Junk Drawer: Lesson #1 Permanent Markers