Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fireplace Mantle

Fireplace mantles were originally created to serve as a hood that projected over a fire grate to catch the smoke. Through generations they’ve served as a focal point of a room, proudly displaying family heirlooms, photos and artifacts. A time capsule of sorts, showing the world what is of value in a family.


Today, two sets of channel locks sit on ours. 


The mantle in our living room is one of the very few places our children, 2 and 4, cannot reach. There is no couch within short distance from which they can launch, no windowsill they can climb, no countertop they can access through sound footing like that of a reindeer on an icy roof.


Our mantle isn’t full of family photos, because there is no room for such items. Our mantle is full of things that must remain out of reach. 


Two years ago, Caroline received a toy racehorse with approximately 45 tiny accessories attached to it: a halter, saddle, saddle pad, breastplate, stirrups, bit, noseband, reins and beyond. It only took three days before we realized the choking hazard involved in such a gift.  45 tiny horse accessories: to the mantle.


In June, I was presenting in a virtual meeting when I was interrupted by a blood curling scream coming from the living room. The children had been playing with their channel locks (hey, they may not be able to read, but at least they’ll be handy) and Cyrus struck Caroline on top of the head when she would not let him park his combine in her horse barn. Channel locks: to the mantle. 


In July, Cyrus ripped a page out of a book that had an illustration of Jesus reading to children. He tore it in such a way that Jesus’ body was cut in two. There is just something about throwing away a picture of Jesus that doesn’t sit well with me. So, He got taped back together. Tiny torn Jesus: to the mantle. 


On Monday Cody busted through the kitchen door:


“Hey. I ordered a replacement American Angus Association membership card a few weeks ago and it should have been here by now. Have you seen it?”


“Yes. Caroline spotted it on the kitchen counter and was using it as a play credit card. Last I heard, she charged $700 worth of Teddy Grahams and horse movies to it,” I remarked without missing a beat.


He wasn’t overly amused. 


“Oh no! What did you do with it?” he asked. 


“What do you think I did with it? It’s on the mantle between the knife you brought home from Argentina and the 2019 tax returns we caught Cyrus stuffing into his lunchbox.”


I suppose in twenty years the kids will be in homes of their own and I’ll reclaim the mantle for my own use. Perhaps then I’ll display pictures of them at this age when almost nothing could escape the reach of their sticky sugar hands and constant curiosity, except those artifacts of this stage in life where I feel as though I’m constantly operating in survival mode. 


I think I dread the day. 

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