June 9, 2010
The other day, I was looking through this chest that Nicholas and I have full of bits and rolls of fabric that we shuttle around with us every time we move with the intentions of making our own curtains or seat covers or pillows that never get made, and I found this crumbly old apron, balled and wrinkled, in the corner. It was dingy and yellow, crusty in parts from what looked like paint, and had a burn hole the size of a cigarette or incent. It was beautiful! The print on the front looked like the food pyramid only it was a pyramid of color pallettes spread out in the shape of a tree. I put it on immediately, tied it high above my bellybutton, and smoothed out the wrinkles along the length of my thigh until the hem folded up nice and flat above my knee.
I had wanted an apron for a long time. I coveted the kind that wraps around the neck and ties around the back. I imagined myself in it baking or tossing together a salad and calling to my daughter to say that the biscuits were just about ready. But this find, this beautifully used apron, gave me so much happiness that I wore it for the rest of the day. I cooked, I cleaned, I picked Arilyn up and swayed her around to the music of Tracy Chapman and Jewel, and after the dishes were done I hung the apron on the wall next to the refrigerator as an emblem of my serentiy.
Seriously? Seriously. See, it was recommended that I start this blog for professional reasons, though I am not sure how that is supposed to work, yet. I am supposed to be a professional something or other; however, all I feel myself wanting to do lately is regress. Adrienne Rich would be so mad at me! I have found myself in the position of being a fulltime mommy and not the full time very-important-literary somebody I once thought I would be, and all I can say, really, is that I am happy. Cooking has become my new poetry; doing the laundry my new explication. Now, all I want to do is slide into the flower printed fabric of domesticity and run head first in the opposite direction from where the women's liberation movement taught me to go. I read Sylvia, I know about the burning bras and the lonley, unhappy housewives of the 1950's depicted in Scorsese's Revolutionary Road or Newell's Mona Lisa's Smile, and I know that my entire youth and early adulthood was spent declaring that domesticity would never happen to me. And here I am, my joy found in a wheat biscuit recipe or scoring big with a tofu spaghetti bake.
Then I begin to see what my fellow women have probably seen long ago (which wouldn't be the first time that I have been late jumping onto the bandwagon of things) - that the run away from domesticity was in part not about disliking housework or child rearing, but was about not having a choice, not having a balance, not having any other options. What I learned from history was that I should dislike the job, that it was, in a way, archaic and that educated women needed to find better ways to utilize their skills. Thank goodness I was wrong! It's about being able to do what you love no matter what it is. And we moms who are finding ourselves falling in love with our mom-roles need to be rid of all those stigmas, even if they exist only in our heads, regarding being a housewife, a domestic engineer, or a stay-at-home, and just be.
In Spanish, a housewife is called la alma de la casa, the soul of the house. I think that says it very nicely.