Saturday, March 03, 2012

loving houses better than themselves

I often find myself having to choose, as I know everyone does.
But as a woman I find myself always frequently feeling the need to choose between office work or family time or play and ... cleaning, straightening, dusting, sweeping, brushing, baking, ironing, wiping, cooking, sorting, folding, vacuming, tending, mending.  Deep breath.

I resent the feeling, the guilt, the hopelessness, that my house isn't clean enough. Or straightened enough. Or Martha enough.

So it was with relief and gratitude that I read this poem by Erica Jong.

It helps to know someone understands. Well enough to put it in writing.

Because my grandmother's hours
were apple cakes baking,
& dust motes gathering,
& linens yellowing
& seams and hems
inevitably unraveling
I almost never keep house
though really I like houses
& wish I had a clean one.

Because my mother's minutes
were sucked into the roar
of the vacuum cleaner,
because she waltzed with the washer-dryer
& tore her hair waiting for repairmen
I send out my laundry,
& live in a dusty house,
though really I like clean houses
as well as anyone.

I am woman enough
to love the kneading of bread
as much as the feel
of typewriter keys
under my fingers
springy, springy.
& the smell of clean laundry
& simmering soup
are almost as dear to me
as the smell of paper and ink.

I wish there were not a choice;
I wish I could be two women.
I wish the days could be longer.
But they are short.
So I write while
the dust piles up.

I sit at my typewriter
remembering my grandmother
& all my mothers,
& the minutes they lost
loving houses better than themselves
& the man I love cleans up the kitchen
grumbling only a little
because he knows
that after all these centuries
it is easier for him
than for me.


Magpie said...


Ben Ditty said...

Beautiful poem. It really captures truth.

smalltownme said...


I love my house but I don't like cleaning. Cleaning always takes a back burner for me.

hokgardner said...

Just yes.

Mary said...

Oh that was so good to read that.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I understand the sentiment, but I still need a clean house. That said, my family does pitch in, it's not just me.

Martin Willoughby said...


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Thanks for that today.

Susan said...

Mothers and sisters for me. Lotery money will go to a cleaning service - first on the list.

Pearl said...

Oh, I'd never read that before, and oh, how I love it.


Aunt Snow said...

I am virtually incapable of cleaning house, I think.

I was always a rather messy housekeeper since my Mom nagged me to clean my room, and since college roommates complained I didn't pull my weight in our shared apartment.

But when I married, I cleaned as best I could. But when my son was about 7 years old, we began to hire a housecleaner to come in once a week, and ten years later when she quit to start a new career, I found myself absolutely helpless. So much so that my husband found another housecleaner.

Andrea Frazer said...

So good and so needed today! If I weren't on a sebatical from Facebook I would repost this! Meanwhile, have you seen Brocante Home?

andrea frazer said...

I meant to leave this website link!