01 June 2009

The Book

No, not that Book. Or the other book, the one I'm writing. This one, Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson. My companion on the balcony with a cup of tea, the one I read in the living room when it is quiet in the house and I have time to think. I gave it a new cover yesterday because the original kept sliding off. It had been a long time since I'd covered a book, and I searched my closet for acetate, thinking how much I missed the crinkly sound and smooth feel of holding a library book. Not finding any, I turned to kraft paper and now it has that science or math textbook feel that is equally enjoyable.

I bought it on a whim (and it's a pretty heavy book to buy on a whim, hardcover, 885 pages), after reading reviews on Amazon while I was pregnant with my son, Topi.

Yesterday, while perusing it again, because it is the kind of book that is part instructional and part anecdotal and not to be read in one sitting from cover to cover, I realized that this is truly the most comforting book I own about keeping a home and living a rich life within it. I've struggled with domesticity my whole life, mostly rejecting it until late. Funny to say when I love to sew, cook, and be otherwise occupied at home a lot. While I wanted a clean apartment and living space, I really cared mostly about decorating. Now, when I look at design blogs and see beautiful arrangements of things, I wonder how the owner maintains such beauty. Do they really dust all those little bowls and picture frames and ceramic pieces? I have highly impractical dark wood furniture that shows every speck of dust, and I want to throw my entire collection of stuff out the window every time I swipe a rag to wipe off the dust only to watch the dust motes swirl, dance, and then settle back down into their happy home on my living room console. I have at times paid someone to help me clean, like when 8 months pregnant with a toddler, but the point is this book isn't just about cleaning. It's about living happily within the space you inhabit. It tugs on my inner apron strings, now long separated from my mother many years ago, and makes me want to be a better person, not just a better housekeeper. How's that for a book on housekeeping?

I love Martha, but I can't get engaged by her writing style. Cheryl Mendelson writes with warmth and devotion to home. I'll let others passionate about the issues fight the career vs. wife at home battle elsewhere. As a feminist, I'm pretty bored by the argument and just want to do what I want to do and if it means I relish having a clean countertop, so what? Isn't the point that being a feminist means getting to act upon your own preferences? I like stepping into a book that makes me feel less anxious about the care I put into my home, and helps me engage with a place that is very special, private, yet shared with friends, family, and guests. When I'm looking for something grounding and non-fiction, that brings me back to where I am instead of pointing me away, this is the book to which I turn.

Happy Monday to you all, whether you kick the dust bunnies under the furniture or poke corners with a dust mop for fun.
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