Back-to-school time can’t ar­rive soon enough

But I give the kids a break. They will be be on their way be­fore we know it

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - PAUL BENEDETTI

One evening last week, I no­ticed my neigh­bour Dave stand­ing in front of his house star­ing blankly up into a tree.

This is not to­tally un­usual be­hav­iour (well, at least not for Dave). He may have been con­tem­plat­ing how many maple keys would soon drop in his drive­way or es­ti­mat­ing the baro­met­ric pres­sure in prepa­ra­tion for his drive up north the next day.

I wan­dered down and asked him what he was do­ing.

“I’m check­ing this here,” he said, point­ing to a gnarly tree at the side of his drive­way.

“It’s got a big crack in it. I think it may be done. It only looks good for about 15 min­utes ev­ery year,” he said.

“Care­ful with that,” I said. “You could say the same thing about us.”

We sat down on the front stoop and Dave said, “My house is in chaos,” shak­ing his head.

For a minute, I thought the worst. “What’s wrong? Are you out of gin? I can get some from my house,” I said, know­ing we keep a bot­tle in the first aid kit for emer­gen­cies.

“No, my daugh­ter’s home from univer­sity.”

Ah, yes, that, I thought. Even gin wouldn’t fix that.

I should know. Both of us have our last kid — daugh­ters — in univer­sity and now home for the sum­mer.

When they ar­rive back from a long school year away, it’s all won­der­ful and happy. And then there’s day two.

The first thing I no­ticed was the trail of stuff ev­ery­where. Knap­sack left strate­gi­cally at the bot­tom of the stairs max­i­miz­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of killing dad in a tragic fall. Mul­ti­ple pairs of shoes in the front hall­way, not lined up against the wall, oh no, the shoes are strewn all over the place, like lit­tle par­ent land­mines to trip over. And then there’s the clothes. I love my daugh­ter, but to say she’s messy is like say­ing An­thony “The Mooch” Scara­mucci has a bit of a potty mouth.

She leaves a trail of clothes ev­ery­where she goes: jacket on the din­ing room ta­ble, run­ning shoes in the kitchen, gym socks in the couch cush­ions, and the up­stairs hall is lit­tered with un­men­tion­ables that shall re­main, well, un­men­tion­able. (I think some of them are un­der­wear, but they could be just stray pieces of coloured rib­bon.)

And then there’s the bath­room. Go­ing in there af­ter Ella’s had a shower is like trekking into a Cam­bo­dian jungle af­ter a hur­ri­cane — only more messy. Once the steam clears — she only runs the hot wa­ter for an hour or so — it’s hard to find the counter be­cause it’s cov­ered with wet towels, hair bands, makeup bot­tles and jars, and the one I love the best, her hair straight­ener still plugged in and glow­ing at around 1,000 de­grees centi­grade. I’ve learned my les­son. Now I go in wear­ing oven mitts and a foot­ball hel­met. It’s safer that way.

Then there’s the towels. Af­ter Ella was home for about a week, I couldn’t help but no­tice that our pre­vi­ously white towels were now streaked with what ap­peared to be ei­ther en­gine grease or tar. Since I had given up mak­ing as­phalt as a hobby years ago and my wife had not signed up for Car Re­pair for Be­gin­ners, my sus­pi­cions turned to my dar­ling daugh­ter.

“What are these marks?” I asked my wife, hold­ing up a towel that looked like the start of a Jack­son Pol­lock paint­ing.

“Oh, that’s Ella. It’s her mas­cara. I bought wipes for her, but I guess she for­got to use them.”

Ap­par­ently, she for­got about 47 times, be­cause ev­ery towel in the house looks like it was used to clean hub caps, a de­light­ful touch that I’m sure fu­ture guests will ap­pre­ci­ate. “Does it wash out?” I asked, naively. “Are you kid­ding?” said my wife. “You couldn’t get that off with a flame-thrower.”

If you want to leave a mes­sage for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, just jot some­thing down with May­belline Great Lash. Aliens will be read­ing it in 3018.

I re­counted all of this to Dave, who just sat there shak­ing his head. “I look for­ward to get­ting my house back,” he sighed.

Me too, but in the end, we agreed we should maybe give the kids — and the tree — a break.

They’d both be on their way be­fore we knew it.

Paul Benedetti is the au­thor of You Can Have A Dog When I’m Dead. Reach him at

When they ar­rive back from a long school year away, it’s all won­der­ful and happy. And then there’s day two.

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