A funny thing has happened on this journey I call my life.
I grew up watching women do all the household chores, and hearing men, my grandfather Clyde in particular, call out from his penuckle game, Woman, get me some tea. There was no respect for the domestic chores that kept our home cozy, the cleaning, the cooking, the errands, and I didn’t respect them either.
Someone I cared about took a long time dying, and I had to help him out, literally and figuratively. He was a creative cook, and in his passing, he had a fussy palate. Somewhere in that, in his delight and interest in what I was doing, I began to see the creativity of a good cook and to find it fun, to find grace in serving what I had cooked to others. This sense of service, this sense of creativity, of ordering, has even spread to housework.
I have a new kinship with women I loved but whose work I didn’t know I scorned: Mother, Aunt Eva, Nana, Aunt Lily, others. I think of them as I dust or vacuum: the way Aunt Eva made biscuits from scratch every single morning, how they sat doughy in the pan, and she would take a spoon and press an imprint of its fat bottom into each mound, then spoon some bacon grease in the resulting hollow before placing the pan in the oven, as the aroma of rising biscuits floated through the house and drew us into the kitchen. How Mother always kept our house neat and precise; how she sewed all of my clothes, including my wedding gown. I wonder what was in her mind as she pushed the soft, white fabric of that gown through the pulsing, mechanical needle of her sewing machine. Aunt Lily crocheted and made quilts and dollies, embroidered them all. I sleep on a pillowcase upon which her flowers swirl and cascade.
Until now I never saw their art: cooking, cleaning, sewing, keeping a family marching forward in cleanliness and with filled stomachs. A quiet art, the art of a good meal, the shine of a dusted table, the precise fullness of an embroidered flower. Ephemeral. Fleeting. Life.