29 June 2007

Clean Your Room!

No water this morning, as the little notice on my door yesterday announced. Quite the contrast from the mess on my kitchen floor from a leak somewhere around my frig. It started while we were away (of course) and so the flooring around it now has curved a bit (cupping is the term I believe) and so I anticipate some expenses in finding the leak, repairing it, and then the floor.

“What’s wrong with our house,” younger son asks impatiently.

“Nothing,” I say. “All houses need work all the time.” This was a key reason we left a house in Texas for an apartment in New York City, and a key reason we stayed in NYC so long. I am not one of those men whose testosterone quivers at the thought of wrenches and screwdrivers and wall board. It must be done, and I can do stuff, but not well or cheerfully. So I have called the plumber to deal with the leak. He’ll be here Tuesday. Until then it’s mop mop mop.

That reminds me of something someone told me a bunch of years ago:

”After forty it’s just patch patch patch.”

How much of life is just keeping it going? The house, the body, the yard, the job, are all maintenance tasks. Any given day can be spent from rising to sleeping with eating, cleaning, fixing, weeding. On any day in the office I spend more time disposing of email and memos and meetings than anything creative. So when, like yesterday, I have an actual thing to do – in this case a memorial service – it feels unusual.

Maybe keeping house is what life is about. I am ready to admit that the lion’s share of holiness and virtue are not spent in heroic or glorious deeds but in wifely duties that are dull to the point of madness but without which the world would grind to a filthy stop.

That sounds derogatory, using the term wifely that is, but it is truly meant to praise the quotidian and ordinary which must be done if the extraordinary and exciting are to exist at all. Constanze had to wash and cook and care for the children so Wolfgang could compose and perform. Ann Hathaway kept family together while Will Shakespeare went to London to act and write. Picasso used up women like razor blades so he could give everything to his painting. Could any of these men, or hundreds like them, have done what they did if every dish was always dirty, all the clothes were unwashed, the bills unpaid, the house a wreck?

I am blessed with a brilliant spouse at home and a great business manager at work. While I would love more time to write, revise, and otherwise roll about in the creative bed of roses, I get way more than most; thanks mostly to these two people. So before I whine again about my overbooked, overstretched life and all that I wish I could do if I did not have so many chores, let me do a bit of praise for these two and appreciate how very good I have it.

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