Last week was my spring break.
From school, anyway.
I spent almost the whole of it cleaning my house and purging stuff that should have been pitched long ago (which I vow to do every time I watch Hoarding: Buried Alive, chills crawling up my spine, icy fingers squeezing my heart). As I worked through closets, drawers, cabinets, the garage, I actually felt lighter myself, like a ship might feel when its ballast is tossed overboard. Of course I thought a lot, wrote a lot in my head while I worked, metaphorical stuff like we don’t often get to lighten our own burdens and decluttering is not just liberating; it’s healing. Basically all sorts of take-charge-of-your-life analogies, for that, in essence, is what I was doing, reclaiming my life from a surfeit of junk.
Until the knots.
I was on such a roll in the garage, once it was cleared, dusted, and swept (it’s much larger than I remembered), that my eyes fell upon the dog’s leash which hangs on a peg by the door. It’s a moderately heavy chain, as Banjo, our yellow Lab, is an enthusiastic, massive beast, pushing 100 pounds.
There were knots in said leash.
This irritated me.
To an inexplicable degree.
My husband usually takes Banjo out in the mornings, and our son, Cadillac Man, will do it later in the day. How can they just let the leash get knotted like this? Are they going to let it go until it’s one giant ball of metal and of no use whatsoever? Do they know how lazy and uncaring this looks?
Those were—alas—my thoughts.
Being on an organizational rampage, as it were, I couldn’t just wait for one of them to undo these maddening knots. In fact, I didn’t even think of waiting for them. If you want something done . . . I wanted the knots out, right then, so I set about it.
It was harder than I expected.
Chain links, especially tightly-knotted ones, don’t “give” very easily. I thought about my many tangled necklaces, how I sometimes poke a needle through the tiny chains until knots loosen enough for me to pull them out. I would need a tool. Say, a flat-head screwdriver.
At first, poking the knotted leash with the screwdriver did nothing.
I poked harder.
Stabbed, to be precise.
I discovered—well into an hour of beating at the first knot, my determination mounting by the moment—that if I also twisted at the knot while I struck it, the one link holding up the works would finally shift, and then the knot could be worked out.
The second knot came undone much faster.
The last knot was nearly the death of me.
I went for the WD-40. I WOULD GET THIS KNOT OUT.
Between a liberal coating of oil and my manic chiseling, voilà! A knot-free leash! After two hours of intensive focus. This was the highlight of my day.
Which is actually sad, in retrospect, but we won’t dwell on that now.
I hung the lovely straight leash back on its peg in the garage, admired it proudly for a few minutes—how it glinted in the afternoon sunlight, seriously—and then I went inside the house to plot my next attack on another project.
Consumed by my various missions, I didn’t think to mention the leash to my family that night. The next morning, I got up early and remembered, so . . . I will just take Banjo out myself.
The very thought of using the nicely-untangled leash made me irrationally happy. I got dressed, put on my shoes, bounced out the door, reached for the leash, and . . .
THE KNOTS WERE BACK!
ALL THREE OF THEM!
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I shouted.
I collected myself enough to rub his belly and console him.
After taking care of the dog, trust that I hunted my husband down. There he sat in his chair, watching TV, sipping his morning coffee.
I marched right up to him.
“DID YOU PUT KNOTS BACK IN THAT DOG LEASH?”
He looked at me like I’d lost my mind (highly probable, at the moment).
“Yeah, I put them back!”
“I spent two hours yesterday getting those knots out! Do you know how hard that was? I even had to use WD-40! You couldn’t think to ask WHY the knots were suddenly gone? You just go and put them back without bothering to say anything?”
“I need those knots! They help me hold onto the chain better!”
I stood very still, many more unspoken words withering in my brain. My husband has arthritis. It often affects his hands and wrists. He also struggles with depth perception, having lost an eye three years ago. It never occurred to me that the knots had a purpose . . .
As if right on cue, Cadillac Man drifted through the living room in his pajamas and mad-scientist bed-hair (he is letting it grow).
“Hey,” he said. Then, after considering our faces: “What’s going on?”
My diatribe degraded into more of a lament: “I spent two hours yesterday getting the knots out of Banjo’s leash and your dad put them back in.”
“I need those knots!” my husband reiterated. “I was glad you put them there in the first place,” he told our son.
Cadillac Man raised his eyebrows. “I never put those in. I don’t know how the chain got like that.”
His father: “What? I thought you did!”
For it doesn’t matter how the knots got there the first time, even if I was right in my original hypothesis: they happened and kept happening because no one stopped to fix them.
What matters is this: That our worst knots in life occur from a lack of simple communication and our utter failure to see from a perspective other than our own.
The next morning, the knots were magically gone again. I thought my husband had relented, perhaps, or taken pity.
Cadillac Man undid them.
“I’d already told Dad I would take care of Banjo, so he doesn’t need those knots.”
I cannot say who’s really right or wrong anymore in this whole knotty scenario, only that it’s best to move on . . . and bless that boy.