After 30 minutes, I heard the rustling of the pipe cleaner bag and the kids pattering off. After a quick inspection of the table, I gave satisfactory marks for clean up.
But an hour later, as I bent down to pick up a sock that had tumbled from the laundry basket, I spotted a yellow pipe cleaner glaring out from beneath the table, then a sorbet orange strip in the middle of the kitchen floor, and a circa 1985 green poker under the piano. I yelled up to the kids to come down and finish cleaning. They arrived before me baffled. "We did clean," they protested. They obediently gathered up the crafty stragglers and went on their way.
Another hour later, as I straightened the toy room, I found two more pieces huddled together under The Baby's activity table. "Did you take these out, Baby?"
"I not play with cleaners!" she insisted. But she was the only one around and evidence of her cunning work- the glitter aquarium stickers trimming the walls- abounded. I told her that if she was not intending on creating a chenille replica of the Chrysler building with them, then she had better put them back where she found them. Through a piercing scowl, she picked up the pieces and carried them back to their home.
As we ate dinner that evening, we heard the thumping of our ancient Siamese cat, Mooshie, as she descended the wooden stairs. She announced her arrival with an low, long voweled Siamese Mer-roooow. But it was more muffled than usual- like she was talking with her mouth full.
She insinuated herself at the table and spit out a electric purple pipe cleaner. Her action educed a memory- of a time before kids- when there was just Mooshie, an abandoned kitten we adopted in spite of the fact we were both terribly allergic.
"Remember when she used to do this at the apartment?" The Mr. called to mind Mooshie's artfulness of standing on her hind legs behind his desk to push open the top junk drawer, jumping to the top of the desk to snag a pipe cleaner, then pushing the front of the drawer closed as she hopped out of sight. At nearly seventeen years old, frail and unable to jump up on the counter to reach her food bowl on her own, she wasn't quite lit with kitten spunk but she was enlivened with her own memory of spry days.
The kids were impressed with Mooshie's ability to get them all into trouble that day.
"But, Mom, what does she want with pipe cleaners?" asked Princess Commando.
The real, raw truth is that our old cat has always had some vices.