Friday, July 24, 2009

the all-american housewife

I've been thinking with fondness lately of the All-American Housewife. The June Cleavers, Marion Cunninghams and Ethel Mertzes of the world, dolled-up in delightful dresses and perfectly polished pumps as they served their husbands three squares a day and washed all the dishes by hand.

I wouldn't trade my life today for the lives that they lived then (I'd be more of a Lucy Ricardo if I did), but I'm beginning to admire them more - for taking a moment each day to dress up, for wanting to take care of their homes. I admire them for waiting patiently at home, for keeping a dinner plate warm. For growing geraniums and mopping their floors, for ironing everything they wore. For wearing white gloves and polishing silver, for making elaborate jell-o molds. For putting their families before everything else, and spreading their beauty around.

I'm grateful that now all this is a choice - pants or a skirt, stockings or not - that ironing and jell-o are an option. But I do find joy in baking bread and making jam and greeting my husband at the door. And at these moments I think the housewives knew best. A happy home is a happy life and I should do whatever it takes to make it so.

Maybe I'll start wearing dresses more often...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

queen of the house

I am not a cat lover. Or a dog lover. In fact, I really don't enjoy any animal small enough to put its genitals on me. This may sound absurd, but I grew up with horses - fifteen hand, thousand pound horses. They didn't come in the house, I changed clothes to ride them, and there was absolutely no way they could pee on me. Cats, on the other hand, can and did pee on my sleeping bag, and claw and bite without provocation; the only dog I remember once ate all my crayons then puked them up in my toy box.

This is why I was "allergic" to cats until a few years ago when the kids found a kitty hiding in our back yard. After Max named her and told the neighbors she was ours, I consented to let her live in the shed where she would keep the mice and birds away. That lasted a few days until other cats began eating her food. We then moved her to the garage where she had food and water and a nice place to sleep. A few weeks later we installed a cat door so she could go in and out as she pleased.

Come Fall, the cat sat outside the window while I taught piano, meowing regularly and clawing the screen. Inevitably my students stated the obvious, "I think your cat wants to come inside." "Yes," I replied, "but she isn't allowed in the house." "Why?" they asked. "Because. I'm mean." "Oh," they said. But, as it turns out, I am not as mean as I seem. The first truly cold day ended the "outdoor" cat arrangement and cleared the path for Gigi Harriette Quincompoix, Queen of the House.

It wasn't an easy transition. It took weeks to accept that the cat loved me best. (Why?!) But gradually she won me over. I eventually became desensitized to finding cat hair in my house (Yuck!) and at some point allowed her to sit on my lap. Now I cannot imagine our home without her. She has taught Abi to empathize, sympathize and love unconditionally and has served as a younger sibling to Max. To me she has shown unwavering devotion and Dave she allows to believe he's the boss.

So I find her today with a swollen right jaw and my heart is filled with fear. Ridiculous, I think. So stupid! She is just a cat. But this cat is a part of our lives and to lose her will break all our hearts.

I really hope she's okay...