For more years than I'd like to admit, there have been two mainstays inhabiting my living room floor: mini-hockey sticks and nets. (Dust bunnies are a third, but they don't go with my theme.)
Bright orange floor hockey nets serve as near-permanent fixtures, flanking either side of the room. I step over them to readjust the coffee table, which was displaced to make space for the boys' game. Returning the furniture to its rightful spot is often a twice daily ritual, completed in the morning and then again before dinner. It's a real bicep builder, but I don't like to brag.
I contend with floor hockey equipment. The weapons of choice at your house might be Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels tracks, Legos, remote control cars, Lincoln logs or perhaps the best toy ever invented: the large cardboard box. The play item itself isn't what matters. It's the way this object helps define your household. As busy. Messy. Chaotic. Played in. Kid-filled.
Sometimes I come downstairs for a drink of water in the middle of the night and stumble over hockey nets. Grumble when I step on an errant stick. I complain that the living room should be neat and adult-like, yet is it swimming in kidstuff and has been for years. Somewhere along the line, I lost control. The sacred space of the formal living room is thoroughly lived in and thoroughly informal. It is hockey-packed and kid-friendly.
I dream of taking back my space. Drawing a line in the carpet and saying enough is enough I am the mom and I should be able to sit down on my living room couch without fear of being poked in the butt by a hockey stick. I think about what I will say to them. The words are milliseconds from tripping off my tongue when a makeshift ball constructed of an old sock wrapped in hockey tape leaps through the air and the house shudders as bodies move in response to the flying projectile while miniature hockey sticks shift from right to left to make the shot and the save and there is much jostling until one of them yells, "Score!"
There is cheering and jeering in the other room as my boys enjoy this competition of theirs. It's a game they've played for years - more than a decade - and I pause and realize perhaps tomorrow would be a better day to take possession of the living room. Best to let them finish their game. Besides, what's 24 hours in the big scheme of things?
It is becoming more and more apparent. They won't be 10 forever, in fact they are all past that already. But even now, when the oldest comes home from college, he takes some time to play floor hockey with his younger brothers because they look forward to it, and he looks forward to it - at least I like to think he does.
Maybe even I do.
I complain sometimes about living room hockey because it messes up my space and has been known to break the occasional window. I live with the disarray caused by jostled furniture, throw pillows that live up to their name, discarded hockey sticks and juice pouch wrappers. Having a living room that is lived in makes my life chaotic, loud and unpredictable. It also fills the space with life and laughter and the type of love only brothers can share over a friendly game of living room hockey.
Someday, I will have a living room where the pillows match the couch, the coffee table remains anchored in its spot and the entire room beckons for me to sit down and linger with a good book. It will be a calm, serene space. Somewhere grown-ups go to drink tea and discuss politics or the weather.
For now, however, it is a veritable arena. The playoffs are in full swing and our team is down by one with just minutes to go in the third period. Time to pull the goalie. "Score!"
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication." You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.