To look upon our home and call it "messy" or "loud" is to say the same of a rainforest's floor or wetland wilderness. To the uneducated observer it looks like chaos much of the time.
Books spill over every flat surface in the living room. The little ones have their fingers plunged deep into dough at the dining table while a jam jar crammed full of wilting blooms oversees their work. The kitchen is a hive of activity, dishwasher humming over the morning's dishes, flour over the kitchen bench, spilling on the floor a bit. The vegetables for the evening meal waiting patiently for attention on the kitchen sink, remnants of garden soil still clinging on after their hasty rinse under the garden tap. Jam bubbles on the stove and the unmistakable autumn smell of harvest floods the house.
Sister is in the laundry re-loading the machines and singing at random intervals, the sound mingling with the jerky piano practise at the other end of the house. In inextricable part of the symphony of our home are the noises from outside; the dog barking at the frisbee flying through the air, the beginnings of a minor property dispute by the trampoline.
And in the midst of this is Mum, moving as a spider spinning her web, or perhaps a lioness leading the hunt. She tweaks and fine tunes the intricacies of this eco-system, Her face wears a grin of delight at another wilted bloom for the table, a frown of concentration over the latest culinary disaster, an enthralled look of wonder at a grasshopper in a jar held by grubby hands, or even the dreaded stormy glance or raised eyebrow at a misdeed or oversight. Sometimes, somehow, she wears all these looks at once. She doesn't run often, she glides.
Every now and then, usually after a series of eyebrow raising deeds, she grows flustered and stomps about, threatening hard labor and bemoaning the lack of "Home Beautiful" opportunities. The children quietly fall into order for a time and give a bit of spit and polish, but it doesn't take long for another jam jar to appear on the table and the contents of the book shelves to again start their slow migration across the house.
As evening approaches, books and games flutter to roost in cupboards and shelves, the vacuum cleaner and broom banish the day's dirt. The hum of activity in the kitchen changes pace almost imperceptibly as the evenings meal takes centre stage. Their duties and play complete, the little ones tumble into the wisps of steam and emerge with damp curls and shiny faces from the bathroom. The jam jar on the table is temporarily replaced by a 'real' vase, with the least wilted blooms being joined by fresh contributions.
Finally, The Return. The dog's welcome is joined by the shrill cry "Dad's home!" The little ones jiggle impatiently at the door and Mum clucks impatiently at the number of things she "didn't get done" today - but you can see in her eyes she doesn't really mind that much and a part of her jiggles at the door, as impatient as the toddler. His progress to the door is slow and deliberate as he returns the dog's greeting, examines the progress of "Project Billycart" and gives advice on a bike repair taking place in the car port. When he finally enters the house, the little ones resemble a sack full of puppies. When they are sated with beard-tickles and cuddles he scoops Mum into a bear hug and gives her a big kiss - he is finally home.
The pace of the kitchen slows as tea is finally dished up, and we join together at the table. The house quiets around the glowing coal of family life that is our dinner table. Each room still evidences the richness of evening pursuits. Dishes rest on the benches and newly filled jam jars cool on the sink. When the children are finally head off to bed, the evening closing into night, a project is still spread out on the table to show Dad, the books have again slowly emerged for bedtime stories and stolen quiet moments, like wallabies feeding at dusk. A coffee cup rests by Dad's chair and a stray toy peeps unnoticed from behind the couch.
Our home would not make the cover of a magazine. Few of the tidy freaks I have met would be able to completely relax. But somehow, I don't think Mum notices as she curls up on the couch next to Dad. And the look on Dad's face as he gives the last goodnight kiss, that look could be described as nothing but content.