~Popcorn And Dirty Bare Feet~By, B.J. Taylor

“Don’t slam that door!” I yelled at the boys for the fourth time. The screen door slammed again. My sons were five and six that hot, sticky August afternoon. School was out, and they were home for the summer. I was constantly wiping fingerprints off the refrigerator door, scrubbing the kitchen floor, picking up dirty dishes, and doing loads of laundry. I strived to make a perfect house, a perfect yard, perfect dinners on the table at night, and perfect kids. It was so hard to keep up, though, and I was exhausted. When my husband came home, he announced at the supper table, “Let’s go to the drive-in movies tonight!” The last thing I wanted was more work to do. “Yippee! We’re going to the drive-in,” both boys hollered in unison as they threw up their arms up in glee. “Oh, Stan, does it have to be tonight? I’m so tired.” “Come on, it’ll be fun,” he coaxed. Yeah, it was fun for him, but who had to get the boys in their pajamas, pack the car with pillows and blankets, and pop the giant bowl of popcorn to bring along? “Okay, boys, you go upstairs and get your pjs on, and I’ll make the popcorn,” I said grudgingly. Bringing out the old popcorn kettle, I added oil, then just enough kernels to cover the bottom. Slowly I moved it back and forth across the flame on the stove, and the kernels slowly popped. My mind raced. Why do I have to do more work tonight? All I want is a bubble bath away from everyone and everything. The kernels began popping all at once, pushing the lid of the kettle up and spilling popcorn out the sides. My emotions were bubbling over too, but I shoved the feelings of anger aside. The wonderful smell filled the house, and the boys came running. “Can we have some now?” they pleaded. “Wait until we get to the drive-in,” I answered, as I finished pouring melted butter over the popcorn that now filled a huge green bowl. After shaking salt over the top, I put the lid on and stowed the bowl in the back of the station wagon. “It’s almost dark. Let’s go,” Stan yelled to the boys and they ran to the car and climbed in. It was only a ten-minute ride to the drive-in theater. We found a spot toward the front, pulling close to a metal pole that held a speaker. Right after the car stopped, the kids ran to the swings to play. “Be careful and don’t get dirty,” I called out to them. As the first cartoon melody began playing on the big screen, they crawled into the back of the old wagon, huffing and puffing. They propped themselves against the bed pillows and munched popcorn and giggled with delight as first one cartoon character and then another danced across the screen. It was a pleasure to see them having so much fun; I bit my tongue from saying anything to spoil the messy moment. After a while it grew quiet; both boys were sound asleep. I cast a glance at the back of the car and saw the huge green bowl now spilling the last of its contents. Amidst the popcorn lay our two children with the dirtiest bare feet I’d ever seen. Oh, how I wanted to scrub them right then and there, but then I looked at the smiles on my sons’ faces as they lay in a peaceful slumber. Why am I so worried about perfection? Does it really matter if the house isn’t perfectly clean or the dirty laundry is piling up? Would it hurt to relax and enjoy them while they are here with me instead of trying to bend them to fit into the mold of what I think perfect children should be? It was at that moment I realized those two little boys were already perfect. Those dirty bare feet could be washed in the morning, along with the empty popcorn bowl. “This was a good idea, honey,” I told Stan as I snuggled up close while we watched the final movie in the triple feature. “It was just what the boys ? and I ? needed.”