Wednesday, November 03, 2010

wifercize wednesday: suzie home-maker

It hit me like a sneeze.  At first, a slight tingle - an itch, really - barely perceptible and mostly ignorable.  I think it began when my mom gave us a subscription to House & Home for our one-year anniversary.  No harm done.  Just a magazine.  But then the tickle grew, the eyes began to twitch, and the mouth formed a turned-down crescent.  I began to bake (a foreign tradition to me, as my mother was more of a cook than a baker).  I discovered I liked baking.  And Andrew liked my baking.  I tried my hand at gardening.  I requested patio furniture.  For my birthday.  Now, the urge is irresistible.  No amount of superstitious preventative measures could possibly stop this impulse.  I weekly check home decor blogs such as Covet Garden, Remodelista, and Design*Sponge.  We ordered two matching grown-up couches.  I revel in doing laundry, cleaning dishes, and Swiffering.

Eyes squeezed tight, face distorted and stretched, a large gasp of breath, held, and...

I've caught the home-making bug.

As surprised as I am to have been struck with this contagion, I largely blame my married status, my home ownership, the influence of my wife-friends, and my biological clock - which once I assumed was digital, but has now morphed into a city hall clock tower.

Don McKay, a Canadian poet Andrew introduced me to when we were dating (the story is a little more romantic than that: we were at Starbucks on a date, one of those Starbucks attached to a Chapters, when he grabbed my hand, pulled me into the poetry section, selected McKay's Camber from the shelf, and read selections to me out loud, such as: "I want to spread the shed years on us as a mulch"...I know...I win - and others which I posted a few months later) wrote in his book Vis-à-Vis: Field Notes on Poetry & Wilderness:
"Home, we may say, is the action of the inner life finding outer form; it is the settling of self into the world."
I love that sentiment.  Our home, our little house nestled in what otherwise would be a strictly Portuguese neighbourhood, with its butter-yellow stucco exterior, its heating/cooling issues, its dark bamboo flooring, its seamless blend from living room to dining room to kitchen, its two matching grown-up couches, and its tiny patio furniture on its tiny patio is an expression of Andrew and myself.  The bamboo floors are scratched because we love our chocolate lab, Solomon.  The dish rack is nearly always full because we love to feed our friends.  We have three 6.5-foot bookshelves, all full, organized into fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and reference, by author's last name, because we both graduated with English degrees and love literature...and we're anal retentive.

It's our little plot of land.  A little plot of land that speaks of who we are on the inside.

What McKay continues with explained my current fancy with home-making:
"To make a home is to establish identity with a primordial grasp, yes; but it is also, in some measure, to give it away with an extended palm.  We might try to sum up the paradox of home-making by saying that inner life takes place: it both claims place and acts to become a place among others.  It turns wilderness into an interior and presents interiority to the wilderness."
I've been pondering what a funny thing home-making is. Its a dusty concept, buried behind suffragettes, feminists, and mommy wars.  It makes me think of Betty Draper, coiffed and at home, preparing meals, keeping house, and gossiping with neighbours over cocktails.  But if home, as McKay puts it, is weighty enough to warrant the definition "inner life finding outer form" why should a the role of home-maker be so drôle? 

I'd like to think that the movements begun on our behalf by women who we will never meet were to give us the freedom of selection.  When home-making was the only entrée on the menu, our choice was limited, and social norms cruelly kept us there.  Likewise, if being a career mom with children in daycare were the only widely accepted option for women, the equation would still be unbalanced. 

I watched the movie Mona Lisa Smile when it first came out, and one speech in particular stuck with me all these years:
Joan Brandwyn: You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
I'm eager to experience for myself what home-making will offer.  I'm eager to see what my particular brand of home-making will incorporate.  I'm eager to turn wilderness into an interior and present interiority to the wilderness.

She looks over a field and buys it,
   then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
   rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
   is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
   diligent in homemaking.

(Proverbs 31 woman)

1 comment:

Andrew G said...

Beautiful. Reminds me of this Wordsworth poem:

Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.