BERRY: Home resembling '70s commune

Aug 2, 2012


My wife, Amy, is a schoolteacher, so she is home every day with our daughters, Evien and Maggie. It's been unbearably hot this summer, so my family has spent a lot of time at my wife's friend's pool and at the beach.

The girls' hair has lightened up from the sun and chlorine, and it's become kinky and untamed like a mermaid's. In spite of all the SPF-50 we slather on the kids, their skin has turned a light shade of brown, and their attire normally consists of flip-flops and swimsuits covered up with thin sundresses.

Evien and Maggie have a lot of time on their hands, so their toenails are painted and they wear beaded necklaces that they made themselves. They pick daisies and put them in their hair.

Amy is no exception. She, too, looks like a wild flower child from the '70s — complete with a red and blue tie-dyed shirt turned inside out. Her tan lines are a stark contrast to her weathered skin and she no longer uses a comb.

I half-expect to come home from work someday and find a Volkswagen Mini Bus parked in my driveway and a scruffy group of hippies camped out in the backyard playing sitars, burning incense and smoking herbal tea.

OK, maybe I'm getting a little carried away now. But whenever I get after the girls for tracking sand through the kitchen and into the living room, they always look at me like: "Ease up, Pops, it's all cool." Their drowsy eyes tell me they're thinking, "Hey, Daddy-O, the waves in the big blue were groovy today. Nothins' gonna' rain on my sunshine — not even you — so peace out."

Amy and the girls are having a terrific summer, so I don't want to throw water on their fun, but I'm growing a little bit frustrated and resentful. Instead of working every day, I want to go shirtless and shoeless, and hang out by the pool sipping iced tea and nibbling grapes. In addition, nothing is getting done at the Berry Commune.

Normally, my wife is a conscientious housekeeper. However, this summer, she's kind of let the children take over the compound.

In the living room, the girls have set up a library equipped with a toy cash register and a pretend computer. Every book in the house is stacked around the fireplace, on the coffee table and the end tables. Every DVD we own is placed on top of the hutch. There are shards of paper laying on the carpet from cutting out homemade library cards, and a toy grocery cart is filled with books that need to be returned to the shelf.

My daughters also have Playmobil toy sets sprawling across the dining room floor. If you're not familiar with Playmobil, they are elaborate play sets with tiny pieces that wait patiently to stab you in the bottom of the foot when you walk by.

The girls have a zoo, a house, an ambulance and a motor home. The sets have animals, people, plants, food and furniture. Getting these sets for the girls for Christmas seemed like a good idea at the time — but sadly, Amy and I realize that we should have gotten them things like pillowcases, blankets and towels. It would have saved us a lot of space.

The girls make messes faster than my wife can keep up with. A few days ago, I came home from work and Evien was lying in the middle of the kitchen floor. She had a towel wrapped around her head and cucumber slices on her eyes. Maggie was filing Evien's fingernails with an emery board.

They have Barbies covering the basement floor and baby dolls in their bedrooms. The only place in the house that's sacred is the master bedroom, and Amy doesn't make the bed anymore. And neither do I.

I have to give Amy some credit; she still cooks regularly and she washes the dishes every evening, and I always have clean clothes, so our house isn't a total disaster. In complete commune fashion, Amy frequents the local farmers market to purchase home-grown cucumbers, blueberries, raspberries, peaches and plums. She even buys sunflowers to place on the kitchen counter.

I guess living in a commune with three sun-drenched modern-day hippies isn't all that bad. They almost always seem happy and I'm glad they're enjoying their summer. I wish I could be home more often to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine the way my family does.

And if I were home more, maybe Amy and I would be able to keep up with the girls and their messes. Naaah! We'd just shut the door tight behind us on our way to the groovy waves at the big blue.

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist


Kelly O'Toole

This is a pleasure to read. Wonderful voice, great humor, great slice-of-life observation. Well-done, Mr. Berry.


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