The little boy walks in and stops. He has many choices of where to play but this one seems to be the best. He does not know why, he only knows that the center in the living room calls him, beckons him fourth to play Hot Wheels. It must be here. It can be no where else.
He could play in his room but the emptiness, it bothers him. He could play in the bathtub with it’s smooth surfaces that makes for great racetracks but the echo is unnerving. He could play on the roof but the ladder is too heavy for him. So he plays in the center of the living room, directly in front of the TV. It is 12:31 on a Sunday afternoon.
She could brush her dolls hair anywhere at anytime. She could do this activity at night when she is in her room trying to sleep but the tediousness of the task might actually make her fall asleep and we can’t have that. She could brush Barbie’s hair in the morning for breakfast but somehow that doesn’t seem right, there is something off about it that she can’t quite put her finger on it.
She could take Dad’s keys, drive down to the lake, talk to the geese while she brushes her dolls hair. She knows where he keeps the keys, the old man would never notice. She is only 5 but she’s been to the racetrack and she’s pretty sure she can figure it out. But she can’t, her feet remain rooted to the spot, her eyes fixated and almost glazed as she brushes her dolls hair in the middle of the living room at 12:31 on a Sunday afternoon.
Mom grabs her phone, it is her lifeline. She is never off the clock, she is always thinking. Strategy, brand awareness, smart ass facebook comments. They swirl around her head. Should she change the scope of work that she is composing to include a more comprehensive digital campaign? Should she make a little witty comment on facebook about the futility of trying to keep a clean house and raise kids? She can do it all, she has the phone and the phone is mobile.
Mom walks with it, takes it with her everywhere. Always connected, no matter where she is at. But somehow she ends up in the middle of the living room. She does not know how she got there and it doesn’t really matter because it’s not something she can tweet. She is vaguely aware that there is a little boy playing cars at her feet. He crashes them, loudly. She tweets about it. A little girl is right behind her singing a soft song while brushing her dolls hair. This reminds her to make a change to the marketing strategy to include parents of small children. Disposable income, that is what she is after and parents are suckers for little girls. She is feeling quite proud of herself at 12:31 on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of the living room.
Dad is in his chair. He has given up and he knows why. There is nothing he can do, no action that he can take. There is a sickness in his family. He knows that it came from his wife, that she brought this to their children. Perhaps he should have thought about this before he got married. Money issues, religious differences, all pale compared to this. She did this when they were dating.
He tries to sit back in his chair. His beer and nachos are ready to go but they have lost their flavor. The ritual seems pointless now and he wanders why he continues to even try. Every week he believes that it will work this time, that a cure has been found and every week reality smacks him in the face.
On a Sunday afternoon.
Without fail, without exception, this always happens. Regardless of how many rooms are in the house. Regardless of what they have to do. Regardless of any obstacles he has put in their way. They arrive. They arrive like migrating ducks, like salmon swimming to the spawning point.
On A Sunday afternoon.
Every member of his family decides that they must stand directly infront of the TV during football season and do things that they could do literally anywhere else. Always. Without fail.
His nachos go cold, his beer less refreshing. They will ask why he stays up late on Sunday nights watching TiVo. They are oblivious.
On a Sunday afternoon.