Before I got married, I had the impression that homemaking would be fairly easy. I was thoroughly convinced that it was the best job for me, and I was expecting an idyllic life. People worried that I’d be bored. “It doesn’t take all day to clean an apartment,” they warned, but I was confident. I had such plans for the wonderful ways I would use all my “extra” time. I had just graduated from college where I’d felt very successful and capable, and I couldn’t wait to conquer my next sphere.
Imagine my horror when I discovered that I stank at homemaking! I could not figure out how to keep the bathroom clean, the dishes from overflowing the sink, the mail from piling up on the floor, the carpet vacuumed, the laundry put away, and decent food cooked–all at the same time. And when and how was I going to “decorate” and make things beautiful? I had no system, no experience. This “easy” job was killing me!
It’s been nearly eight years now, and I’ve learned an awful lot. I definitely don’t “stink” anymore. But I’ve still got plenty yet to master. I keep fighting along, striving towards the goal of making a wonderful home for my family. And I remember that other women have gone before me, others who didn’t have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in home economics when they started out. One of them in particular I knew very well. She was my grandmother.
By the time I knew her, my Grandma was the queen of an elegant, beautifully run home. Her table, piled high with delicious food (always everything you wanted on your birthday) and sparkling with crystal and china laid down over lace, was my introduction to the intrigues of etiquette. (“You mean all those forks are for me? What do I do with so many?”) Every corner of her house was rich with color: flowers, photographs, heirlooms, little treasures from friends (Grandma had a lot of friends), and then there were the candy dishes, and cookie trays, well stocked for the grandchildren. Nothing ever seemed overdone, only full of depth and artistry. I was in awe. I still remember the creamy satin bedspread, the shining dark wood of her highly polished tables, her mother’s petit point chair, dusty rose afghans, towels, pillows, all the colors in harmony flowing from room to room. It was actually a tiny house, but I never knew it until I was nearly grown up. She had worked such wonders in her crowded space that all I felt was air and light.
My grandmother did everything, too, and with such perfection that any one of her talents would have been remarkable, yet she had mastered them all: cooking, sewing, flower arranging, cake decorating, a multitude of crafts (Grandma loved her hot glue gun!). She even made ordinary things into works of art. Every package she wrapped was a masterpiece of coordinating ribbons and handmade bows. She dressed herself in beautiful clothes, every inch of fabric carefully pressed, every shade exactly right for her skin.
My grandma was Superwoman.
But now, here’s where it gets encouraging. When my grandma got married, she couldn’t do a thing. Her mother had always done everything and never let her help. Grandma had to check out a book from the library to learn how to make the bed. She had barely cooked before, and her story of the first time she made rice went something like this: “I looked at that little cup and thought of my great, big husband, and I said, ‘No way! I’m putting in the whole bag!’ I had rice in every pot in my kitchen.” And then there was the time she tried to make pudding from scratch, and she burned it. So she tried again. And she burned it. So she tried yet again. And she burned it.
So many women today feel handicapped by their lack of training. They turn their hearts toward home, only to discover that their hands are so inexperienced that all they produce is failure. Or perhaps, they don’t even know where to start. They’ve never made a homemaking schedule before, cleaned an oven, or cooked from scratch. They hear of women like my Grandma finally became, and they think, “These people are aliens. I can’t even make a cake let alone decorate one.” But if a woman who started out her homemaking career not knowing how to make a bed can do it, then so can we.
Every one of us can follow in my grandma’s footsteps. I believe that all it takes is knowing what you want, being willing to seek out the information you need, and then allowing yourself to fail until you get it right. That’s the hard part, the failures. It’s easy to forget sometimes that homemaking is a skill just like any other. It is neither innate nor automatic. It takes practice and trial and error (usually a lot more error than any of us would like!). We may have to burn our puddings three times in a row before we learn how to make them. But it’s worth it. I’ve seen the end result of sticking to it for years.
If my Grandma could do it, then so can I. So can you.