One night this week a student presented me with a needlepoint she'd made that reads "Seek Shelter," one of the rules from The Halfway House for Writers. It was just beautiful and unexpected enough to yank me out of that night's dinner disaster. Digging around in the fridge, I'd found some tortillas with so many bites out of them they looked like snowflakes. I'd spread black beans straight from the can on top, smooshed the whole mess into the quesadilla maker and called everyone for "DINNER!"
My son took one bite and announced he'd just remembered some urgent homework . My husband proceeded to take his apart and recook it in the frying pan-- with olive oil, chicken and exotic spices while I forced myself to slog on through. "You don't seem to appreciate my domestic efforts," I said sadly. "I do," my husband said. "I just didn't think you were serious about this one." Oh, but I was! I care very much about the outcome of my domestic endeavors, I'm just not willing to put in that much effort.
The day before in the bath I'd marveled at the layer of sludge and grime not only in the hard to reach cracks but along all the flat surfaces too. I wondered not how it all got there but who in the world planned to take it away.
A few years ago I paid a friend, a single mother getting sober and picking up odd jobs along the way, to clean our house. It had never been cleaner before and has not been as clean since she went to grad school. The thing is I just don't see a regular pattern of cleaning and cooking in the realm of my domestic obligation. Neither does my husband, for me, thank god, or for himself, unfortunately.
By and large, we just value other things more than tidiness and balanced meals. He has gone back to school and runs his own business. I'd rather read the contents of a book than sort the contents of a junk drawer. Every day I have choices and those choices rarely include furthering my domestic degree. As much as I'd love to live in a spotless, beautiful home and eat gourmet meals I'm pretty sure I'm a domestic flunkee from the remedial class. Some days this causes me great horror, shame and dismay. Other days the creativity, love, generosity and humor I find in connections with the people I meet on my path provide all the shelter I seek.