The Mystery of Domestic Order
Sep 25, 1995
It's hard to look at your life objectively sometimes. My husband and I live a bit differently from many people. We have a home business and we homeschool our four children. We see each other from the moment we wake up, all through the day, and sometimes in the middle of the night. Until recently, we had a family bed, where all of us slept on futons in the same room. It was like a couple of big pooches and a litter of puppies, all piled every which way. All night long everybody's nosing around for a new spot, fitting their feet and their heads in somebody else's armpit. Our baby literally drapes himself over anyone available.
We just made the move to put the three bigger kids into their own room. We left open the option of coming back into our room and bedding down on the floor in case of a nightmare or a thunderstorm.
My husband works between his computer, the telephone and outside appointments. I orbit between him and the kids. The dining room table doubles as the school area. If I am not careful, we have World Book Encyclopedias and Holt Mathematics workbooks lying across bowls of partially eaten cereal and milk. I can never seem to keep up the pace with the housecleaning. I walk a heavily beaten path between the office and the kitchen. I do bits of work at my desk -- call a creditor, pay a bill, try to write something-- and then lope off to the kitchen, picking up scattered laundry and cups as I go. "Tymon, sit on the couch and read Gracie and Ranin a story!" Or: "Who forgot to shut the bathroom door? Tadin (the baby) is playing in the toilet!"
Sometimes I start ranting. Or raving. If no one responds then I really get going and rant and rave simultaneously. As soon as my back is turned on any given day, our house looks ransacked. No matter how many times I scoop up toys and toss them in the toy box, straighten shoes by the door, or throw newspapers into the recycling bin, more junk materializes in its place. "Who did blah blah blah?" I say in an exasperated voice. "Not I." "Not I." "Not I." Or: "It was her." "It was him." "She did it."
Then I say something like, "Do you like living like piggies?" "We're not piggies!" they respond sweetly.
I have a couple of friends whose houses look like something out of Home Beautiful. Not a fleck, a speck, a crumb -- nothing disrupts the perfect order of their homes. Counters and sinks are dishless and spotless. (Am I the only one who finds moth carcasses by the boatload between my windows?)
Their living room furniture is as firm as the day it was purchased. Tables are shining -- no scratches or (heaven forbid) unsightly drink rings. Everywhere I look are little strips of flowered wallpaper, color-coordinated poofy draperies and homey touches in just the right places. I have one friend in whose kitchen sits a delicious looking ceramic apple pie on a big butcher block; ceramic juices leaking over the side and everything.
Who are these women who make their homes like this? How do they do it? As a child when I was sick I would stay home from school and watch game shows on T.V. (They made me sicker.) Some lady would stand next to the host. "Our first contestant, Gladys Glump, is a homemaker from Fort Worth Texas." I don't ever remember having the conscious thought, "Oh, I want to be a homemaker when I grow up, too."
It may sound like I'm knocking it, but I'm not. Homemaking takes skill.
My children swing from the draperies in the living room. All the curtain hooks pop out and then they steal them to make inventions. The drapes look like something from a haunted house, lopsided and cockeyed. I look at them everyday and have no idea how to fix them.
I have always been a real softy about letting my kids eat food in the living room. I started by allowing them to eat bowlfuls of dry cereal on the couch while watching Saturday morning cartoons. This is the same couch that was really nice when Peter and I were first married. The children turned it into the Olympic Gymnastic Practice Couch. It was bounced and boinged on so much that the lining under the cushions tore.
This resulted in handfuls of Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs falling through the holes. I've started to upend the sofa once a month and shake out twenty pounds or so of dry cereal and toys that have fallen in.
I could imagine a little cockroach diner opening up in there. Chrome counters, stools, and a juke box. Little cockroach cooks with tall white chef's hats, serving Fruit Loops to the clientele.
I guess some people just aren't home all day and that's why their houses are clean. But I'm determined to get on top of domesticity. I'm trying to get a strategy. Monday, buy new curtain hooks. Tuesday, vacuum the moth corpses. Wednesday, patch the sofa. Or maybe I'll just shut my eyes more.
Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.
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