(This essay appeared in The Beach Reporter on 4/16/92)
I can tell spring is coming. Not by the usual signs. Plump robins gathering string for nests, and rows of daffodils standing at attention are not the things that herald spring’s arrival to me.
Rather, it’s a feeling that comes over me that I believe is a direct link to past generations of women. I hesitate to name it, in an era when women are executives with their own cleaning help and personal shoppers. But, for lack of a better, more apt description, I will call this feeling “domesticity.”
All I know is that every spring, I get this strong desire to start Big Projects around the house. Like the robin about to feather her nest with finery collected from the yard, I cast a keen eye upon my home and find it sorely lacking in so many areas. On the Martha Stewart scale of homes, mine would rate, at best, a C+.By domesticity, I am not referring to simple, mindless, everyday housecleaning. Weekly vacuuming and toilet scrubbing are not the substance of a good spring cleaning fantasy.
However, pulling all cushions off sofas and chairs does count. As does cleaning out closets, wallpapering a bedroom, and planting a rose garden.
I like to think my inspiration comes from a heritage of hardy women of years past. Their domesticity was born of necessity, and it was a year-round occupation with long hours and little relief. If I were a pioneer woman, I would hang rugs out on a clothesline, and then beat them with a stick.
I no longer fight my leanings toward matters domestic. Activities I shunned in my twenties as being beneath my status as a liberated woman, I now seek out and revel in. Things I used to hire people for, I want to learn to do myself. Things like baking bread and cross-stitching a pillow. There are very few things left in the world that you can’t buy ready-made or hire someone to do for you.
The textures of domesticity are what I love most. The smell of bread baking or soup simmering. The smell of paint when you are stenciling a family room wall. The sheen of a new fabric that will become part of a quilt. Time taken from a busy day to create something homemade for your family.
Perhaps men get these same sorts of feelings when puttering around the garage. The smells of fresh lumber or turpentine. The feel of wood gliding through a saw.
I have a new stack of books from the library. Books on wallpapering and stenciling. A how-to book on container gardening. A cookbook with recipes for pastas using spring and summer vegetables. My taste buds call out for all things fresh and aromatic. My eye wants to gaze upon a flower garden that I planted in my back yard. I browse through the class schedule for quilting classes at Luella’s Quilt Basket.
In a few months these feelings will pass. The first 80-degree day will find me at the beach, without a thought to quilting or planting herbs. There are times when my workload is so heavy that it even seems like a chore to pick up the phone and call Domino’s. There are times when I am not thinking about hand-painting Easter eggs or learning to make a chocolate souffle.
As much as I love these several months of appraising and organizing and getting the cobwebs out, I’m sure my husband dreads them. He’ll find me gazing solemnly at the rusting bathroom light fixture, and knows what comes next. He’ll see the stack of wallpaper books and sigh. But after nearly twenty years of dealing with springtime syndrome, he graciously goes about the tasks I assign him. I think we’ll experiment with sponge-painting the dining room this year. I just brought home the prettiest color swatches from the hardware store…