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Posted: July 3, 2012 5:20 p.m.

The Housewife’s Lament

I was contemplating beginning my spring cleaning, even though the first day of summer has come and gone. I kept trying to remember a poem about a housewife who spent all her life cleaning dirt from her home and then was rewarded by being buried in dirt. Wonderful irony.
I searched the Internet. (Any mindless entertainment is better than cleaning.) The poem or song is called "The Housewife's Lament" and is sung to the tune of "The Cowboy's Lament," sometimes called "The Streets of Laredo." But on my way to finding that song, I found some wonderful quotes about housework.

"The worst thing about work in the house or home is that whatever you do it is destroyed, laid waste or eaten within 24 hours" - Lady Hasluck. I don't know who Lady Hasluck is but she sure is right. My family has an unerring knowledge of which room I have just cleaned, and someone will inevitably make a beeline for that room and destroy it.

An adjunct to that quote is this one from Phyllis Diller. "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." I have grandchildren and can certainly testify to the truth of that comment. Apparently, my memories of my own children's destruction of an orderly house have blissfully blurred.

Lady Hasluck also comments on how quickly prepared food disappears. Think of the time a housewife spends planning meals, shopping for the food and then cooking the meal, serving it and cleaning up after it. I would say that would average a minimum or one hour and maybe two per meal. My family can eat a meal in 10 to 15 minutes, including desert. It takes more than six times longer to plan, cook and clean up after a meal as it does to eat it.

I have been married almost 47 years. I would think, conservatively, I have cooked at least 300 evening meals for each of those years. My husband does not like to eat out, and he's on his own for breakfast and lunch. That amounts to more than 14,000 meals. I'm sick of my own cooking. I told my husband I am tired of cooking; unfortunately he is not tired of eating. I threatened to fill my refrigerator with diet microwave meals when I retired and my children were no longer at home. That went over like a lead balloon. I still cook.
Why not let him cook, you ask? He would cheerfully. The problem is that it would take me longer to clean up after him than it would to cook myself and then clean up. If it will fit in a four cup pan and we have a 10 cup pan, he will use the larger pan, and he will use at least two of them if not three. His cheerful destruction of the kitchen while he is cooking (and what he cooks is usually very tasty) leads me to the last quote.

"The average man has a carefully cultivated ignorance about household matters - from what to do with the crumbs to the grocer's telephone number - a sort of cheerful inefficiency which protects him," Crystal Eastman.

My husband is a master at this strategy. Try to do something by yourself and make a mess doing it or a mess of it, and someone else will do it for you. He's smart, very smart.

Once when we first got married, he ran his finger over the top of a picture frame and said it was dusty. I was at a loss for words. Later, I told him I wished I had said, "If you have time to check the picture frame for dust, you have time to dust it yourself."
I think he learned a valuable lesson then, the lesson being the more you admit you being able to do, the more you will have to do.

I should have followed that strategy when dealing with yard work. My problem is that I want a chore completed in what I think is a reasonable time span. My conception of a reasonable time span is not the same as my husband's conception.
The only strategy left to me is to start forgetting how to do anything.


Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

 

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