When Tom Sawyer White-Washed his Legos
“You have to do this perfect,” the biggest tells the smallest, then adds, “I’m going to go downstairs for a while. . . . Make sure you dry them off.”
They’ve been up there nearly an hour, working and devising strategies for clean. Big brother is, of course, the captain, directing and assigning tasks as they scrub, strain, and sort thousands of Lego bricks from Kinex, KRE-O’s and Halo bricks. There’s a steady clunk of plastic and industrious conversation interrupted by bursts of enthusiastic humming and occasional song.
All this a bit shocking because the three can’t spot a six-foot pile of dirty socks in an otherwise empty room. And when I ask them to clean their room, they do the sweep, moving a book or two from one pile or another, pass by the unmade beds and the clean clothes I’ve asked them to put away, stumble over the action figures and Lego pieces—because everything here is Lego—pick and toss one of the many granola bar wrappers stuffed in corners and littering the dressers, and wonder if I will pay them for their work.
But now that big brother suggested washing what he sees as their most prized possessions, they’re attacking the job like ice cream sundaes. But time has a way of killing enthusiasm, and an hour later, with six inches of Legos still submerged in the bathtub, the Tom-Sawyer charm fades . The middle boy decides first the game is not a game, and sneaks out the front door to look for snakes or frogs or just elude the tedious tasks big brother assigned him. And then the Captain decides his ship is not ship-shaping as easily as planned, and takes a respite, leaving the smallest boy elbow deep in water scooping plastic into a colander with clear orders to keep working.
“I’m tired,” Viggo says when I go upstairs for a status check.
“You can go,” I tell him and the tub smells like fish.
The bathroom is a mess. All the kitchen-straining devices are strewn in the sink, on the toilet and on the rug loaded with bricks, and there’s an enormous stack of Halos and odd bits of broken toys and trash on the bath mat. But most of the work is still floating, and the smell, I can’t figure it out. Maybe the sand accounts for the oceanic odor, or something rotten or dead. I start to scoop but I can’t tell which is Halo and which is not, and it doesn’t take long before I feel had.
So I go round up the boys and do what moms do. I put them back to work, and now the task is a job, and they heave and they ho and the humming is no more. And eventually, I let them drift away and when the last of the Lego’s are shiny clean, I got to work cleaning the bathroom. I didn’t do it perfect.