Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I wish I had a Housewife

The U.S census-taker was tapping earnestly away on his lap-top. I sat across from him, trying to be polite, although I was a little ill-at-ease with this bureaucratic stranger asking me financial/governmental questions I really wasn't in the mood to answer. It was the middle of the morning, and I was in the middle of my work, and I really didn't want to hear that short awkward silence that inevitably arrives when anyone asks me my occupation. 

"Are you employed?" is a question that can throw me for days on end.  Someone asks me that and immediately, my mind flashes over all the things I do in a day, the baking, the cleaning, the washing, the budgeting, the organizing, the shopping, the phone calls, the projects, the planning, culminating with the last sink of dirty dishes at about 8:00 at night, and every time, because I have no societal value as a wage-earner, I must answer, "No."

I've coped with this in different ways throughout my life. For many years, I would quickly say, "No, I'm just a housewife", often followed by the wave of a hand and a scrap of self-deprecating laughter. Sometimes, if I was really feeling pathetic, I would go into a long ramble about my outside work credits, how I had once been a professional artist, worked in the psychology field...blah blah blah, like some 'has-been' rehashing 'glory days'. And if things were really down in the dumps, I would skip the dreaded housewife word entirely and just say that I was a working artist in some sort of slump. I never failed to feel like every approach was not only a lie, it was a betrayal. It felt like I was in the witness protection program, lying about my real identity.

Fact is, I have always loved being a housewife--and still do. I was one of those little girls who played with china tea sets and truly believed her doll needed special treatment when she was 'sick' and I dreamed of having an Easy-Bake oven. My favorite game when I was in the bath was to pretend to be 'washing' the washcloths and hanging them on the edge of the tub to dry. I was cross-stitching by the time I was eight. Even when I was working out in the career world, I spent many a frantic year, doing last-minute house tidying and insisting on hot, homemade breakfasts for my kids replete with cloth napkins and gingham place-mats, all before we would charge out the door to conquer the chaos of work and school. I read interior decorating books along with my college textbooks, pored over cookbooks for fun. I still feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I have mopped a floor, or polished a coffee table. And although I have worked as a cleaning professional, the thought of having my own maid--which many women dream of--simply fills me with dread. My hands always itch to put things in order, to make them gleam, to puff up pillows and make things cozy.

And of course, the census-taker turns to me and yet again asks the question. And I reply, "I am a homemaker." Simply, without apology. As the years go by, I am slowly learning that the least said is the easiest way to power through it. And of course, we clarify that I am making no income, and thus by implication, what I am doing with such joy and attention is 'worthless.' Same drill, different day.

He continues typing, and suddenly looks up, pausing for a long moment. His gaze seems to take in the abstract painting of blues and greens in front of him, the books so neat and dignified in the case nearby, the silver teapot carefully placed on the lace tablecloth. "My," he says, with a happy sigh, "I wish that I had a housewife. This place is so...so...well.."

He tries to finish his sentence with a variety of adjectives; 'quaint' and 'nice' seem to head the list. He tries to finish, but I can tell that he hasn't found the word he is searching for.  He is an older man, a veteran, in many ways an old-fashioned gentleman. It seems to me that he is recognizing something he once knew much better. It is like he is staring at a faded photograph. He is sincere, and I understand what he is unable to say.

The sense of feeling at home, surrounded by order and beauty, is much out-of-fashion nowadays. Big screen TVs and dual incomes are how we make meaning out of our lives today. I am not only out-of-fashion, to some I am an insult, a brain-washed block in the way of progress.  But each day it is easier, each day something more is built in response to this modern-day madness, with each bed made, each dish washed, each day that the morning sun is slanting through clean windows. 

Each day, I am a homemaker, making something so important that we barely have words for it.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Getting things blooming for Spring

When I was in elementary school, my teachers picked up on my ability to draw and I was chosen to put the new bulletin board art up every season. For a little girl who always felt like an outsider and more than a little bit odd, creating Pilgrims in November and leprechans in March that all of my classmates would see when walking down the hall, was quite the heady experience and almost like being 'popular'.  I've never lost that sense of how fun that was, and it's reflected in my obsession for seasonal home decor. I'm delighted to see that there is a whole community of homemakers on youtube that share this view.

Nothing seems to freshen the house and make it seem almost 'new' more than bringing out things that have been tucked away in cupboards and boxes, nearly forgotten for a full year. I like to sprinkle these little touches on endtables and kitchen counters; I even go so far as to hang a few different pictures. And in a record winter like the one we are currently having, where snow pack and temperatures haven't been this frigid in forty years...well, seeing a few pastel colors gives me hope that someday things will bloom again.

All of what you see below is done with items I already own; I bought nothing new. 

(Oh, and I almost forgot...I haven't posted in ages...this is an entirely new house...more posts on our adventures with that later.)

 Mixing and matching patterns on my kitchen chest freezer. I believe that I bought the little silk flower pot at Walmart for under five dollars last year; it is the only new addition that I have. Back in the 1990s, I used to snap up all the cloth placemats from Goodwill that struck my fancy. I believed that there was nothing more elegant than cloth napkins and placemats, and I used them almost daily when my kids were growing up.  Although I still use them for meals, I enjoy using them anywhere I want a bit of color. 

 A view again of our tiny retro kichen. Another placemat on our antique drop leaf table, which we figure is almost seventy years old.The painting on the wall is from an art show I did for a cafe, and featured scenes of delicious goodies. I change these out seasonally as well.

 I have two sets of nesting dolls; one blue and one red. This is the season for my blue ones. I like to twine different colored ribbons in the branch wreath on the wall, and the image framed on the wall is from the back of a Lifeway sales brochure. Although I am an artist, I must admit that I find greeting cards and other found objects to be quite charming when put in a frame. 

I believe that the birdhouse frames came from the Dollar Store, many, many years ago. What can I say?  I am old. :)

Just a touch of green downstairs in the sitting room, with some hand-made crocheted eggs tucked in. My dad made the wooden bowl.

This arrangement is in our front 'parlor'. Just a grouping of an old silver teapot I got at an antique store, a candle gift from Christmas, some Dollar Store silk flowers, an heirloom tray from hubby's grandfather, and a couple green  napkins from, you guessed it, Goodwill.  I suppose I should polish the teapot, but I have to admit I kind of like the tarnish.

Thank you so much for touring the spring version of my home. Things don't have to be expensive, new or fancy to bring a sense of warmth and prettiness.Check out what might be hiding in a drawer or storage box. You might just have some charming surprises waiting to trim your castle.