We had an early-sixties, traditional nuclear family. My mom cooked our meals, cleaned our house, and generally maintained the household, while my dad worked all day outside the home and did all the yard work on the weekends. For as long as I can remember, my mom had an iron at the ready and a pot of something good cooking on the stove. She took her chosen life style seriously, and I don’t think she ever regretted it.
She hung our laundry on the backyard clothesline, and then ironed them throughout the week. She once said she loved the smell of line-dried bedsheets and towels. I remember my sister and I running around and through the clothes, until Mom hollered at us to stop. I also had a toy iron and ironing board that I would set up right alongside my mom’s, and I would press my doll’s clothes while she did our family’s.
When my sister Jane or I got holes in our play clothes, mom would iron patches underneath, so they would last longer, yet not be too obviously mended. Ditto with our socks. If we got holes in them, I remember mom sitting down on the couch, the offending sock stretched over a jar of cold cream, and my mom darning the hole together with needle and thread. I found that the most fascinating activity. I still do, even though nowadays it’s so much easier just to throw out the sock and buy more.
We watched her cook all our favorite meals and bake the best Christmas cookies. Our dressers always had stiffly starched doilies on them, as did our black and white TV set in the living room. And when we learned to vacuum, we had to crawl on our hands and knees with the “crevice tool” accessory that came with the machine, vacuuming the carpet next to the baseboards, so that we didn’t leave scrape marks on the painted wood, another sign of lazy housekeeping.
Being a homemaker nowadays is a challenge. Women work outside the home just as much, if not more, than men, running multimillion dollar businesses and arguing high profile legal cases. Oftentimes other people take care of the children, laundry, and meals. And my hat goes off to the women who have broken through traditional gender roles and set the standard high for future women. If I have granddaughters, I want them to know that only their imagination limits what they can do.
Yet, when I sit down each November and polish my silver for the upcoming holiday meals, I can’t help but take a special pride in how shiny it gets. And when I cut fresh flowers from my garden and place them in the center of the kitchen table, even if we’re having hot dogs for dinner, a sense of rightness steals over me.
I can almost feel my mom’s hand, patting me on the shoulder while saying, her voice a whisper on the breeze from the open kitchen window, “You make me proud, Cathy. It’s all in the details. You’ve raised two good boys and turned your house into a home.”