The opinions, remembrances, reflections, and wisdom of the mother of five homeschooled children as the last one leaves the nest and the ranks of the grandchildren begin to grow.
Monday, July 5, 2010
I have had a clothesline in my yard for many years, but mostly for hanging out those large items that don’t fit in or do well in a dryer. Rubber-backed area rugs, sleeping bags, washable comforters, all benefit from not being toasted unevenly in a dryer. Over the last few years I have been hanging out more of my regular laundry. At first I was a little nervous since neighboring suburbs have prohibited residents from hanging laundry out to dry. Such a contrast to the city streets in Italy. There, it seems that drying underwear and blouses, strung between apartment buildings, have become somewhat of an artistic statement and the subject of creative photography.
David's trip to Venice in 2005
As I hung the sheets to dry today, my mind wandered back to those days in my neighborhood when I was young and hanging clothes on the line was the only way to dry the laundry. It was one of those chores that also served the purpose of being a brief social encounter for neighbors. Our city houses were situated close together and it was impossible not to have a conversation with the neighbors, if you happened to be in the backyard at the same time. When women were out hanging laundry, they were also having a chat. Once everything was on the line, the chatting might continue over the chain link fence. There were no privacy fences back then.
I also thought of how adept these women were at clipping the articles of clothing to the line with barely a break in the action. My neighbor ladies would grab a handful of clothespins and another handful of clothing and in what seemed to be one smooth movement, would skim down the line, clipping each piece without stopping. I, in contrast, am all fumble fingers. If I try to grab more than 4 clothespins and maybe two pieces of clothing, I end up dropping pins on the ground and then maybe the clothes fall off the line as I try to recover the pins. I have started this practice too late in life to have any talent at this art form.
The fact is homemaking is an art form. With the advent of modern feminism, the art of homemaking diminished in esteem and popularity. Feminism succeeded in characterizing homemaking as the boring domain of those whose conscience had yet to be raised. I have always seen misogyny behind that so-called progressive philosophy. Only a misogynist would view the work of a woman in the home as lacking value. And yet we women, who were supposedly roaring, fell for the lie and joined in the disparaging.
It seems though that there has been a reawakening among young women who are now making up for lost time by indulging in those domestic duties of the past that were responsible for the domestic arts of today. Whether they are baking bread, sewing, quilting, knitting, spinning, raising chickens, goats, or cows, this renaissance comes just in time to save these skills from forever being lost. While the production of goods for a world of 6 billion people must include large corporate entities, it should not become the exclusive domain of far away factories and impersonal agri-businesses. This renaissance will not only preserve ancient skills, it will keep alive the social and cultural atmosphere that almost always accompanied a woman’s domestic life. Nothing can substitute for the pleasure of participation in the creation of goods and the satisfaction that comes with the work of one’s own hands. If you haven’t caught the bug yourself, let me recommend a luscious book that I read every summer. It is MaryJanes Lifebook, Ideabook, Cookbook. The author, MaryJane Butters, elevates the domestic arts to the status to which they belong. She believes we women should receive honor for the beautiful work of our hands in service to our families and communities. And to that I say "Amen!"