I’ve never been the Queen of Clean, never come close to being a Kitchen Goddess.
Yep, my home is reasonably kept, and I can rustle up a decent meal to keep us fed, but an old-time balabusta, not me.
I was raised in the 1950s, June Cleaver and Margaret Anderson on TV, my mom playing the starring role at home, dinner every night at 6:15, a full fridge, clean underwear, tidy house, and homemade cookies and milk after school.
Little did I appreciate the comfort and security my mother provided, nor did I fully value the time and effort that went into making our house a home.
Until it was my turn.
Two decades later, with four little ones, a hard working husband and a house to care for, I struggled to find ways to control the clutter and keep up with the laundry. Sometimes, breakfast dishes were left in the sink, beds unmade, as the housewifery of my mother’s era became outmoded and there were exciting new things to do outside.
And the term housewife slowly fell into disuse, or worse.
I hear it evoked half in jest as the deadly virus stalks us and we are consigned to our homes, safely sheltering in place. It echoes in the whining about the relentless chores, the shopping, cooking, cleaning, as our everyday lives are played out at home, dinner again, another load of laundry, another bathroom to scour.
We’ve become our mothers.
I page through Cheryl Mendelson’s 900 page tome, Home Comforts, its preface an ode to housekeeping, quaintly dated, even though it was written in the 1990s by a sometime lawyer and writer (as well as avid homemaker). The encyclopedic treatise covers everything from removing chocolate stains to waxing floors to turning mattresses and so much more. But it is less the information Mendelson imparts that resonates than her philosophy of what it means to keep a clean, comfortable, healthy and safe home. Especially now.
And I reflect.
And I realize that in the slowdown, I have newfound admiration and respect for those 1950s housewives and their commitment to housekeeping and homemaking. I hear it in Mendelson’s sigh of contentment at making what she calls “a good place to be.”
I find myself recovering the small pleasures of being home, of making a home. Of fresh linens on the bed, of a pile of books on the coffee table, flowers in the bedroom and the scent of fresh coffee in the kitchen. The satisfaction that comes from making do, from doing it myself, from making more from less. From keeping it simple, and neat. Being mindful.
Cleaning out the sock drawer, my desk, my office. Taking stock of my books and finally arranging them, shelf by shelf, by subject or author.
Thinking more about how I spend my time and my money. Thinking more before ordering take out or clicking on Amazon Prime. Consuming less and savoring more. Taking time to be grateful for what I have, for the love of a husband, for the joys of family, for the gift of friendship. And making time to nurture those relationships.
And thinking of the mothers in my life, and the gratitude I owe them, for showing me the joys of what it means to make a home, to keep it and maintain it and to create a place I always wanted to come home to.
And that place, that safe place, where I felt the love and care that went into its making, where I’d always be welcome, always be at home, endures.