For most of my adult life I have identified myself as a mother and housewife. I inherited, for better or worse, my mother's need to cleanliness and order in my home. Unfortunately, I am the only one in my family who feels very strongly about it, and as a result, I often feel like I am being looked upon as being (slightly) superficial. Conversely, when I express my dissatisfaction at the state the house is in, or the sloppy manner in which a job is done, I know that the person I am addressing feels slighted and insulted.
A clean house is not the sign of an empty head. Not necessarily. Homemaking can be an art and a form of peace and solace. And so, I feel dismissed when I am unhappy about the state of things.
So, here is what I wrote in 2002. Not sure if my preamble makes sense. It seems to make sense to me.
April 12, 2002
The rain dripping in the gutters all night had led to less than a good night’s sleep. She was finally able to fall sound asleep and the damn alarm clock said that enough time had been spent in bed and it was time to get up. Getting out of the warm bed she shivered and went to the bathroom to pee. The dogs decided that if she was up, they had to get up too. They followed her wherever she went, and in the morning, they knew that she would let them out to relieve themselves too. Shuffling to the back door, sleep in her eyes, she looked out at the cold, gray windy day and wished she could stay in bed all day. As she opened the door, the younger dog bounded out full of life. The old dog had to be coaxed so shivering, she went out and puckered her lips and made a loud kissing, smooching sound to get the old dog to come. Then she turned and looked at the rain darkened dirt in the yard. The barren winter trees swayed in the wind. The sun burned them into a glowing red orange that took her breath away. It was unearthly in its brilliance. She was looking at the trees to her west, the sun rising behind her and reaching its rays to this treed horizon. She was tempted to run upstairs and wake up the kids to look at this spectacular sight, but she knew that they would not appreciate it. In fact they would probably ruin it for her with their complaints of being pulled from their warm beds. Besides, as the sun continued to rise the sky returned to normal and the day was windy and gray and cold again. Her husband had left for work before the sun came up and was no doubt traversing some subway tunnel as the show was going on in the heavens above him. You don’t miss a thing if you don’t know about it.
She put the coffee on, turned on the Today show and plodded through her morning routine. Coffee, news, a banana muffin and more coffee to wash it down. The dogs were in full form, barking at the neighbor taking his trash out. It was too cold to go get the paper just in her pajamas, so she contented herself with reading the old newspapers that were strewn about. The only things really worth reading were the comics and Ann Landers. Maybe there would be something juicy in the society pages. She read her horoscope every day, but could never remember her husband’s sign and had to look it up each time. She promptly forgot it anyway. Just a diversion.
She opened the back door and the dogs came bounding in before she had a chance to wipe the mud off of their feet. Good thing that the carpet was already dirt colored anyway. The only practical color with a house full of kids and dogs.
The baby, actually already a toddler, always slept late, thank God, so she didn’t have to deal with him for a while yet. Time to get the other two up and ready for school. The girl, ten years old, was sleeping the sleep of the dead. Her curly hair tangled, this was the best time to brush the knots out. And it worked to wake her up too. The girl got up, dressed and went downstairs to watch cartoons. The boy woke up with a smile as usual. He always swore that he wasn’t sleeping, just pretending. He hated pajamas, so after his bath at night he put on the next days clothes. He was dressed and ready when he woke up.
Cheerios for the girl, hot oatmeal for the boy, they sat and ate with the TV on while the she packed their lunches and got their backpacks ready for school. They hurried to brush their teeth. It was cold and so jackets, mittens and hats went on. After zipping everyone up the mom sent them out the door to catch the bus.
Peace and quiet again while she washed the breakfast dishes and started to tidy up the kitchen. She saw the bus go, so she knew that it was okay to get a shower before the baby woke. Out of the shower dressed in old jeans and a sweatshirt, she gathered up all the laundry and tossed it down the stairs. She could carry it down in a basket, but she loved to see it fly! Socks and shirts and little and big pairs of underpants landed strewn all over the front hallway. She went down the stairs carrying the empty basket kicking the stray pieces of clothing the rest of the way down. As soon as she started the first load, the baby came crawling down the stairs backward in his blanket sleepers. With a sleepy face and a heavy wet diaper he found his way into her lap to nurse.
She nuzzled her nose into his soft hair and thought about her life. How boring she used to think that it would be to be home all day. At one time, when she was a lot younger, she thought that staying home was such a waste of time and talent. She was sure that she would have a career, taking off a few weeks for each baby. That surely would be enough. Any idiot can raise a baby after all. And she was no idiot.
Sitting there, nursing, listening for the washer to finish she thought of the song “Amazing Grace.” The words “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.” Ah yes, she thought, how true. How true indeed. The baby smiled and the milk ran out the corner of his mouth and they both laughed.