So now the house is quiet again. Paula has let her Inner Orderly Person run wild, and all the sheets have been washed, the bedrooms vacuumed, the Legos detected ("Ouch! My foot!") and put away, the miniature pair of tights extricated from between the sofa cushions, and the pacifier reached from under the bed.
Was it therefore terrible when the Legos were strewn about, or when the cover finally fell off Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, because after thirty five years it had been read one too-many times? Is it better now because Joseph's interminable questions no longer need addressed? ("Does the little red car go fast because you put gasoline in it? Is it my turn to smash the cans for the recycling?" etc., etc., etc.)
No, it was, and is, not better.
The things that matter happened in the midst of all of that. It matters that Grandpa didn't blow his stack about the book, but instead said, "Yeah, it was getting old. It's a great book, isn't it? Your mommy liked it when she was your age." It doesn't matter that there are no longer pages of sketches strewn about, but that Sophia heard Paula say, "Wow! You're really getting good at drawing people!" It doesn't matter that someone started playing the piano at 6:00 AM sharp every morning, but that joy was found as small fingers caused something beautiful to occasionally occur.
It doesn't matter that chaos reigned at 7:30 in the evening - it matters that once night gowns and pajamas were in place, dad read a few more pages of Harry Potter and the Whatever, and that the day ended with everyone kneeling in family prayer.
It mattered that everyone knew that they were loved, and that they knew that they were part of a family that intended to be good.
So, yeah, the house is clean and quiet once again. But it was the other stuff that mattered.