Friday, August 7, 2009
Why I Will Never be A Domestic Goddess ~ A Cautionary Tale
An old zinc washtub at one of many Hwy 127 yard sales today–no I didn't buy it, but maybe should have done as it has plenty of storage for muskmelons! Read on...
Dear Pantry Reader,
It's not for lack of trying. I truly do want to be the domestic master (or is that mistress?) of my home place. However things like writing, thinking (in my head and on paper, often called "daydreaming"), reading and being with family and friends always get the better of me. And then there's blogging and the occasional writing-for-hire project which is always gratifying, even if the dishes pile up and the dust bunnies gather. Most recently, there have been the delightful distractions of day trips and yard sales after a long, dry spell (a year, actually, since we moved and I really shouldn't even be going near an antique shop or yard sale right now). Housework, I suppose, like sports or cooking, is something you actually have to do instead of looking at an article about how to "Lose 30 inches in 30 days with our Amazing Knee-Bend Plan!" or reading recipes from cookbooks (a favorite pastime, actually).
I also have a very hard time, increasingly in my old age, with both multitasking and project management (sometimes even project completion). It's called Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I know it is an issue that a bit of "Mother's Little Helper" could help, and occasionally does (ah, the wonders of well-managed pharmaceuticals), as well as avoiding carbs (too many carbs blur my focus and tap my energy). All of this said, I do organize a mean cupboard–I'm more of a "surface clutter" kind of gal, but my closets and drawers and cabinets are immaculate. [What's with that?]
So when you translate all of that lack of effective multitasking into things like laundry, office filing, lots of farm fresh meals brought to the table three times a day by a smiling, aproned and well-coiffed Mamma (I had you there, didn't I?), and "gardening" (that's another blog), canning, freezing, oh yeah, and CLEANING, well, there's a lot that can get swept under the carpet (and, believe me, if this doublewide didn't have tolerable plum-colored wall-to-wall carpeting, that's just what I'd be doing). PHOTO: At least this "Mother Hubbard" knows how to keep a cupboard and it is rarely bare. [And no, I didn't buy this at the yard sales today, either, but I liked its look.]
Fact is, I'm tired of trailer livin'. My kitchen is adequate (I mean 12x12 in a 30x70 doublewide isn't that bad) but it feels like I'm cooking in an RV. The sink is jammed into a corner and if someone opens the fridge (which ALWAYS happens when I'm in the kitchen trying to be a domestic goddess or at least getting some semblance of dinner), I'm trapped and ticked off about it. You try doing dishes or putting stuff in the garbage can while someone has you pinned into a corner. [And I should mention here, "someone who shouldn't even be in the refrigerator because they are about to have their supper...well, um, maybe in another hour or two."] Furthermore, I miss my sink: my big-enough-to-wash-a-baby kind of sink (and it did, many times) with two deep basins and a long gooseneck faucet so you can actually wash stuff under it, like big kettles. And a pantry or two...and lots of countertops. Rooms to move around and breathe in. An attic and a cellar to store stuff in again! Don't even get me started.
So I'm not complaining, not really. I've always been great at making do and finding the glass half full or even, at times, overflowing. I'm just pointing out that I do often pine for old wooden houses, historic patina and fabric, for a house that smells old (and I'm not talking socks) and that if you punched the wall (not something I do on a regular basis), your hand would not come out on the other side. The dream farmhouse is in my head and will emerge in time. We chose to leave a very old dream house in a New Hampshire village and I suppose this is our penance. Right now we have other priorities and as I said, I'm not complaining nor should I. I do love our new landscape and emerging farm and the state where we are living, and the people in it, so the shelter we are living in is cursory to what is most important.
So the point of this typically long blog entry is that I do want to share this one "Why I will Never be a Domestic Doublewide Goddess Tale" with you. We have a good-sized mudroom/laundry room. I love it and it is something I never had in our honking big 1813 Federal New England mansion and to be honest, is one of the things that sold me on the prospect of a few years of doublewide living. I can walk ten feet to throw a load in the dryer instead of walking a 1/4 mile down to the cellar and back. And it's cute: I mean I have space for some of my vintage laundry collection, zinc-topped sorting table and old funky cupboard where everything from dog food to fish emulsion is kept.
Because the laundry is also the mudroom and our most-used side entrance–and has a partial make-shift pantry–we often dump stuff there. Lately it's been melons as here in Kentucky it is melon season and we can't keep up with the offerings of friends and our fridge is not big enough to keep them all cool at once (the fridge issue is also another blog posting for another day). So last week my dear husband (who when we first married would not have tolerated my recent lack of "domestic focus," but he knows that I left willingly from my "old familiar" and he is also more tolerant than I am now) put two musk melons–and here in Kentucky they grow them very large–into my laundry basket on top of some clothes.
It made sense at the time: no room anywhere else (yes, the mud room is now just that, a true mud room) and the clothes provided a soft cushion. Well, soon more clothes were piled on top of them by several other members of our household and Domestic Dingbat here forgot about the melons altogether (yes, as well as the laundry–well, that's harder to forget when it's staring you in the face all week, but like I said: family, friends, yard sales). At one point, a melon was removed but the second one? Let's just say that this morning when I went to do a bit of laundry before hitting more Highway 127 yard sales, I had a warm, mushy and very stinky surprise in the laundry bin.
That musk melon (and now I know why they are called that–they stink even when not rotting in a laundry bin!) was a liquified mass of slimy mush. [An aside: in Kentucky cantaloupes are also called "mushmelons," perhaps with good reason.] I can't even describe it without losing my dinner or recalling the smell. Let's just say that several items of clothing had to be thrown out (fortunately some old shirts and underwear). The rest was washed several times to get the smell out. The wooden basket was power-washed with a hose attachment and left to dry and sterilize in the sun (and the old Shaker laundry basket was given to me by a dear writer friend who would be horrified with my lack of task management!). Had I left the pile to steam compost for the rest of the afternoon, I would have had to call in an emergency OSHA team. [But I may have solved one environmental problem: mix layers of laundry and rotting compost together and you can generate enough indoor heat to fuel a home.]
Last fall, for my birthday, my friend Teresa gave me an old book, written in the 1950s I believe, on how to fail miserably, and happily, at housekeeping. Amidst the actual practical tips, there is much humor and it is a treasure. What is even more of a treasure is to find friends along the way who "get you" and know and share your secret: that in our trying to seek perfection, or expecting it in others, we will only disappoint ourselves, and each other, perfectly. I will one day quote from the book here on this blog. Frequently. That is, when I can find it. And yes, dear understanding reader, right now I can assure you, it's not in a pile of laundry–nothing like a little rotting musk melon to get the laundry done in a jiffy!