Friday, February 27, 2009

Domestic Fantasy

You've heard of Romantic Fantasy. You know, every little girl's idea that one day she will grow up and marry Prince Charming and live Happily Ever After. Well, before I got married and started a family, I suffered from a delusion called "Domestic Fantasy."

I imagined that I would be the Caroline Ingalls of the 21st Century. I would stay at home with my children, of course. I would plant the garden with a baby on my hip while the older children cheerfully helped with the hoeing. I would make simple yet wonderful meals from scratch, and they would be the best meals my husband and children would ever eat. NEVER would I stoop to cooking from a box! I would make most of my children's clothing with my trusty sewing machine. My children would always be well-groomed, polite and obedient.

Forgive me for rolling on the floor laughing.

It's not that I didn't want to do those things for my family. I have actually attempted several times to be Super Mom.

I DO plant a garden in the spring. And I usually enjoy the hard work of gardening until the cute little sprouts shoot up. The kids usually find it enjoyable up until this point too. "Oh, look at the cute little pea plant. It's so sweet, so tiny, so fragile. Let's water it very carefully so we don't hurt it." A month later, out of the very same mouths, comes "Why do I have to water the stupid peas? I hate peas! No one ever eats peas!" That last part of the tantrum - the part about no one ever eating the peas - is usually true because, after several days of the whining, I give up asking them to water the peas. Then I myself begin to forget to water the peas. So, by the time they are ripe, I usually harvest about 13 peas, all of which I eat by myself as I pull them off the plant. I do have to wonder if it's worth the time and effort when, for the price of a pack of seeds, I can buy a 1/2 lb. of sugar snap peas at the grocery store.

Beans are another story. I can go without watering them for 5 weeks and they are still growing up over the roof of the house and creeping into the neighbor's yard and under their deck, even occasionally entwining their cats who sneak under the deck to find some respite from the summer heat. But the problem with beans is that I don't usually notice them until they've become the size of a zucchini. At that point the only thing I can do is to let them rot into the ground and hope that they will make next year's soil more fertile.

So what if gardening wasn't my forte? I've always been a good cook. I learned to cook when I was 9 years old and I learned from the best - my mom.

I had tons of great recipes and I couldn't wait to use them for my family. The only problem was that my husband is the pickiest eater on earth. When he was single, he could do his weekly grocery shopping and check out in the express lane. I had to drastically revise my recipe repertoire.
But when the kids came along, I knew I would have a brood to cook for. However, I ran out of time, energy and desire by the time my first child was 3 days old. Hamburger Helper was starting to look pretty good. A meal that takes 20-30 minutes, start to finish, with only about 3 minutes of actual human involvement - sounds like a dream to any tired mom.

Now that my kids are older and I have a little bit of energy back, I'm once again attempting to make more healthy, "from scratch" meals. Occasionally I will come across a cooking show on TV and I will stop to see if I can get any new and useful tips. Usually the cook is deeply involved in a complex process sounding something like a doctoral dissertation, all the while saying helpful things like "This is SUCH an easy recipe and you can make it with ingredients you have in your pantry." This is provided you even have a pantry, which I don't, and if you have things like expeller-pressed grapeseed oil on hand.

I'm grateful that as my children grow up, they are becoming more adventurous eaters, so I can try out new recipes or old favorites on them. My husband, on the other hand - the guy who insists that pickles qualify as a vegetable - will probably never change.

When I had my picture of domestic bliss all planned out, sewing was by far the most preposterous idea I had.

I once sewed an outfit from scratch. I was about 10 and it was a 4-H project. I could choose any pattern and fabric I wanted and my 4H leader would teach me how to create an outfit I could actually wear. I chose a shorts outfit and bright green terry cloth - very fashionable for 1980. I have to say I did quite well, cutting the pattern to my size, pinning the fabric together, and sewing it into a creation that I was proud to wear for about 3 1/2 summers. After that, the charm wore off. I haven't enjoyed sewing since. Maybe I'm still scarred by the fact that my mother had to hide the beloved shorts outfit from me and smuggle it out to the burning barrel to get me to stop wearing it, based on the fact that it fit me more like a bathing suit - an obscene bathing suit - than shorts and a top. Perhaps I have a deep-seated fear that if I ever make anything again and have any affinity for it, my mother - even though she lives 400 miles away - will sneak into my closet and torch it.

I think a more realistic explanation is that I just hate sewing. When my husband and I were first married, he bought me a really nice sewing machine (at my request - it wasn't one of those bone-headed I-wanted-diamond-earrings-and-he-gave-me-a-sewing-machine gifts). I used it a few times. I bought a book illustrating how to create your own home d├ęcor - curtains, pillows, etc. It turned out to be much too detailed for my tastes - meaning the instructions were more complicated than "Go to your nearest Kohls store and purchase matching curtains and throw pillows." So I eventually gave the book away as a gift to some other unsuspecting newlywed. As far as making clothes, I really had been quite delusional, because after I started actually having children, I lacked the alertness to complete a simple task such as getting my own clothes on, let alone working a contraption with parts that move faster than a moving car and are sharp enough to be used for brain surgery.

Mending, of course, is essential in any home that contains children. So, I do have a mending basket, and anything that needs to be mended is put into the basket until I can get to it. My procedure for dealing with the mending basket is this: I put a piece of clothing into it until the owner of the clothing either forgets about it or outgrows it. Problem solved. If it happens to be something I paid a lot of money for (which doesn't happen often as I do most of my shopping at thrift stores, yard sales, and the occasional hidden dumpster), I may attempt a more complicated approach, using heat 'N' bond or sometimes even staples.

Duct tape has merit too.

3 comments:

  1. Oh, my gosh! I love this It is truly the post I should have written! I am SUCH an embarrassing "gardener", yet I too had such "high hopes"....or, ridiculous "domestic fantasies". The only thing I am at all successful with, as in: a) we have success and b) we eat it are peppers or tomatoes of any sort.

    I do love peas, though.

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  2. Tomatoes are very hearty - I don't think I'll grow them any more, though, because I can never use them all!

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