I have nursed a secret desire to be a housewife – or, even better, a live-in housekeeper – for many years. It replaced my earlier fantasy of living in a convent (I imagined austere stone rooms and lots of time to read in enforced silence). I think it all comes from a longing for order and routine. And a desire to hold higher – and deeper – the very smallest acts of caring: sweeping, polishing, dusting, ironing. The care for inanimate things an extension of care for life itself. And an appreciation for the aesthetic experience of ordinary life. There are connections between care, beauty, and meaning.
The idea and the reality are not so far apart – at least in the doing: the making of the bed, the folding of the laundry, the cleaning of the grout – but the cumulative experience – at least the intermediate cumulative experience as opposed to the end-of-life retrospective – is very different. At the end of a week or a month or a season of domestic labor, I tend to feel diminished by the invisibility of maintenance. Dishes piled in the sink are noticeable. Dishes put away and always ready are taken for granted.
This leads to the grand, domestic gesture, which is antithetical to the basic idea of quotidian pleasure: the over-the-top birthday party, excessive holiday decorations, too many pillows…or too many stuffed bunnies.