Monday, August 14, 2006

A Domesticated Goddess

I had a few moments to myself this weekend (at last!), and I spent them reading Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. After last month’s lament that I should have gone to law school, this novel provided a pleasant antidote. Though the premise of the novel is that an up-and-coming lawyer ditches her career to become a housekeeper, the moral is simply that there is both value and pleasure in such tasks as cleaning and baking. More to the point, there is a strange but real pleasure in reading about housework. A few years ago I bought Home Comforts, an enormous tome of housewifely advice, not because I ever really planned to implement its mad regime (which involved, among other things, removing all items from the refrigerator and wiping it down with vinegar every week), but because I found it oddly entertaining to read about crisp sheets folded smoothly in closets, about beating the dust out of rugs on the front porch. Reading about food is, of course, even more enticing. If I chop a few vegetables into the slow cooker, that’s an unusually productive day for me, but I still enjoy reading about cloves of roasted garlic, baby mozzarella and extra-virgin olive oil, pine nuts and fresh basil, spiced Italian pancetta, pan-seared rainbow trout, hot bread fresh from the oven.

All of this is by way of celebration of my first day back as a SAHM. I’ve spent it cleaning my house properly for the first time in two months, and I’ve got a jar of organic spaghetti sauce and some 100% sirloin ground beef ready to go for supper, along with a stick of frozen garlic bread from M&M meat shop – a big improvement over the usual daily ritual of peering into the fridge optimistically at 5:30, hoping to find something edible, before finally settling on a cob of corn and a piece of old fort cheddar.

So I’m grateful, today, for my house and the time to clean it, and for the food that my family will eat for supper. And some of that gratitude is a response to the lovely meme started by A Severe Mary called Sleeping with Bread Monday. Here’s the back story:

During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, "Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow." (Linn, Dennis et al, Sleeping With Bread, p.l)

I love this idea of practicing gratitude, of remembering the things that nourish you and using those thing to help you sleep at night. And because I’m a very literal-minded person, I’ll start by cultivating gratitude for food and shelter and the time to be with my children, to prepare food for them to eat, to pull a dust cloth across my piano and leave a smooth, shining surface. I don’t think I can accurately identify what has been bringing me desolation lately – it could be the transition from working too much to working too little; it could be the aging process and the havoc it’s wreaking on my body; it could be my recent discovery that my ex-husband now calls himself Vlad (how does one recover, really, from the knowledge that one is Vlad’s ex-wife?). So for now I’ll focus on the things that bring me consolation. Because they do.

12 comments:

Heather said...

That was exactly the motivation that I needed to get off my butt and clean our house top to bottom. With a wedding in a little over a week (gah!) we've had so much on our plates that everything's been on a slide. Sometimes the simple pleasures in life (like a nice clean house) are all I need.

Mary-LUE said...

G - Thanks so much for joining in with Sleeping with Bread and your post about it is wonderful. Wonderfully written with wonderful sentiments.

I have that Home Comforts book, too! I know someone else who bought it, too and it is funny how a book about making a home, even though 99.9% of it you never intend doing really does bring comfort. It is the strangest thing but I just love having it and knowing that it has the answer to almost any "homemaker" questions I could possibly have.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I loved Home Comforts. Its prose was oddly restful for a book about so much work. But best of all, if I quietly left it somewhere that my husband would find it when he wanted a book (the bathroom, the coffee table, etc.), he read it. And suddenly he had opinions on things like thread counts.

Becky said...

It is for the very same reason that I love reading the Martha Stewart Living magazine. I probably have once or twice, but at the moment I can't recall ever having made even one of the recipes I found in the magazine, but I love to read them nevertheless! I get inspired by them...

And you just reminded me of home (Canada) with your "old fort cheddar cheese" comment - very few Americans will know what you mean, because they don't have the benefit of English-French labels. Other favourites Frenglish phrases of mine: Cadbury's Bunnies Lapins, win gagnez and free gratis.

mamatulip said...

I like the "Real Simple" magazines for that exact reason: it's oddly comforting and somewhat inspirational for me to read those kinds of magazines and see such smooth, clean, crisp surfaces and areas.

Nancy said...

Hi! First, sorry I've been gone so long -- I've missed you.

Second, I also love the idea of practicing gratitude. I think it's particularly valuable during stressful times in life. I need to work on that myself. :-)

Kvetch said...

I think a reminder to be grateful is always, always a good thing. Thank you. And I love watching shows and reading books about things I'll never have or never do --- it's a curiosity I suppose!

Andrew said...

You're right. I've learned you can always focus on the negative side of a situation, thereby ensuring that side will have a greater effect on you. OR... you can focus on the good and maybe write a refreshing, uplifting post like yours. Thanks.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

sunshine scribe said...

Wonderful, gracious post. Gratitude is a good thing. And I am with Mama Tulip my subscription to Real Simple feeds that part of me. Now I am off to clean something ...

Minnehaha Mama said...

Unrelated to your post, I just stopped by to tell you that I joined your Anne with an e posse. Aren't we supposed to break a slate over Mom-101's head now? No wait, that's only if she made fun of Anne's hair.

Andrew said...

Hi again!
Thanks so much for stopping by "To Love, Honor and Dismay" and for leaving such a great comment. I took your suggestion and provided a few more thoughts on what the wife of the perfectionist might do. Thanks for prodding me!
All the best,
Andrew

penelopeto said...

i am always so proud of my little (tiny) bursts of domesticity. look! i made coleslaw! look! i cleaned the bathtub!
too bad they happen one at a time, about once a month. did i mention i'm getting a cleaning lady? the most important part of being a domestic goddess is knowing when to throw in the towel. or clean it.