Once upon a time, I was a child. A weird, quirky, and-according to adults who knew me-precocious little child. My parents gave me chores, and responsibilities, but never anything beyond my capabilities. Of course, when they gave me the responsibilities, I knew they were giving me their trust as well. I wanted to please them, and so I tried my hardest to do things properly.
The summer I was twelve, my mom got really sick. We were living up in the middle of the hills, miles away from any signs of real civilization (malls, movie theaters with more than two screens, fast food establishments…you get the idea). Most importantly, we were a good half hour’s drive away from the nearest hospital, and that was just a small county hospital. There came a night in mom’s illness where a frantic drive delivered us to said hospital. The doctor informed us that mom needed lots of bed rest.
Now, over the years, mom had taught me the basics of things like how to cook, how to do laundry, and other household things. Since my dad was working three jobs (pastor of two churches that were 40 miles from each other, and town garbage man), many of the things mom had always been responsible for doing fell to me to do. It wasn’t a big deal. I knew mom wouldn’t have let me do it, if she hadn’t believed I was up to the task. Plus, I still had time to play with my friends. Besides, cooking meals, and doing laundry seemed a fair trade-off to me, if it meant I got to keep my mom.
Things had been going pretty swimmingly. My Gramma and her mom had come for a visit and I had cooked my first big dinner. I made a roast, green beans, and dad helped me put together a cherry angel food cake. I didn’t ruin anything, and no one got sick.
It was a couple weeks after the midnight trip to the hospital, and it was laundry day. I remember that the dishwasher was full, so after lunch I made sure there was soap in the dishwasher, and then headed to the basement to work on the laundry. (The stairway to the basement was located in kitchen. Handy. Also, it’s a semi-important detail in what comes next.)
All was well.
I was practicing useful life skills.
And then, I emerged from the basement.
As I neared the top of the stairs, I was surprised to see that there was some sort of weird, white covering on the kitchen floor. Getting to the top of the stairs, I found that the ENTIRE kitchen floor was covered in about a foot and a half of bubbles. My first reaction was to get my dad to help me, but he was off visiting with a parishioner. Which left me to figure out what to do.
I started scooping up the bubbles and putting them in the sink. I thought I was doing well, until I heard my mom calling from upstairs. There is nothing like your mother’s voice to send you into a complete tailspin of panic when you’re twelve and don’t know what you did to screw up, but know that you screwed something up. I ran to the foot of the stairs and called up, “Everything’s fine, Mom! Just stay up there!”
Hearing the obvious panic in my voice roused my mom from her bed. As I heard her heading towards the stairs I found myself repeating over and over, “Everything’s fine! Don’t come down here! Really, don’t come down here!”
Now, I wasn’t worried about mom being mad at me. I was worried, because I knew the doctor had said that she needed to stay in bed and not move around much. Coming down the stairs, in my mind, qualified as disobeying doctor’s orders. I didn’t want to make mom worse, just because I had somehow filled the kitchen with bubbles (which were waist high at that point).
Down the stairs, my mother came. She took one look at the scene, and gently asked me what had happened. I stood there going, “I don’t know. I put the soap in the dishwasher, turned it on, and then went to change a load of laundry. I don’t know what happened!”
It was at that point that mom put two and two together, and then I learned the very big importance between dish soap and dishwasher detergent.
It wasn’t my first time running the dishwasher, but it had been my first time on my own. I knew that the detergent was in a squeezy bottle, and so I had just grabbed the bottle that I thought looked right.
My mom then helped me empty the kitchen of its temporary carpeting. Ended up using a shovel (there’s a handy hint, in case any of you have a kid that does the same thing I did).
Also, in case you’re wondering, mom didn’t die. Which made me a happy girl.