One Ordinary Day Barbara Crooker, Beth Bornstein Dunnington, Todd Hart, Janelle Hanchett and Raina Rose all on the Line
I have just put down Pandora’s Jar, for it was a jar, not a box that the first woman, according to Greek mythology, opened.
My Pandora’s Jar is one full of smoke and mirrors, the jar labeled Social Media for Authors, which is a bottomless container and spreads the odor of not-enough on the one holding the Jar.
I am not interested in spending hundreds of dollars building my Twitter following.
I am not interested in streamlining my branding. Okay, I can see the value in that. My readers here may be a bit confused by my cluttered presentation. I can get interested.
But the rest of it? The numbers, the SEO calculations, the Google+ing just makes me nuts and like Pandora, who was terrified that she’d incur the wrath of none other than Zeus, her father, when he found she’d done the forbidden thing and opened the jar, I am terrified that if I don’t launch myself in to the deeper waters of Social Media to promote my work as a writer, attract more readers to Laundry Line Divine, find conferences wishing to host me as Rampant Sisterhood, find venues for readings of and reviewers for An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice…if I don’t do all that and more…I will just be one woman, here, telling my story at the kitchen table to my laptop. The last of the zinnias and roses in the pitcher down at the end of this table nod in the light fall breeze, yes, yes, they are interested.
But are you?
I had to extract myself from my computer desk where I had pledged to stay only two hours, but it was almost into the 4th hour and lunchtime was upon me. I put soup on the stove and took a bag of chips (okay, black bean chips, gluten free and salty) out to look at my laundry, a set of sheets and a shirt found tangled up in the sheets, which are floating in that same light fall breeze. The sun plays with the blues. The white sheet is luminous, like a painting of a sail, only this is real, right before me, woven threads bearing the blaze of sunlight, moving sinuously on the cotton line, held on by wooden pins.
This is what I do. This is who I am. I write as a woman who is a full time mother and artist. I wage a daily battle with distraction by keeping company with my ordinary tasks. They are mundane, but they allow me an entry point to beauty and grace. They ground me. Once I am here, breathing fully, I can go back to my collage canvas or to an empty white page or a class plan in my workbook and carve my own path amidst the chaos of daily life. I am making my own way and the laundry helps me.
It also connects me to my mom who was radical in her love of laundry. Even as she lost her memory, she recorded in her daybook, “I don’t recall what I did today, but I must have done laundry.” When I was home last week, debating what to do with four heavy boxes of her correspondence and daybooks and notes, I restrung the wash line. I know enough to order my day around doing wash. As a mother, this is practical. As a writer, it is necessary.
Then, I read what my friend in Hawaii, Beth Bornstein Dunnington wrote about laundry:
This morning I hung clothes and sheets on a clothesline. Today, in particular, this evoked a deep connection to my Nana Anna and my Aunt Bess and the old Bubbie, my great grandmother – all long gone. As a child I stood among these fierce Jewish women and watched them hanging clothes and then quickly and efficiently reeling them out on a line. This was a time when Jewish families in the suburbs of Boston still lived schtetl-style, as they did in Russia before the war; the space was shared and the laundry hung over backyard concrete with just a hint of grass. The sound: full-bodied laughter of women over the squeak of the pulley as the clothes were pulled in and out; the smell: strong scent of perpetually cooking Eastern European food: kishke, kasha varnishkes, kreplach, kugel, borscht. (There are no men in this story; this is a story of women.) Today, as I hung sheets out to dry in Hawaii, thousands of miles away from that clothesline of my youth, I was reminded of those women I loved, and of that long ago kitchen where they most often gathered. In my memory they’re speaking Yiddish and singing and laughing so hard that they can’t catch their breath, and every once in a while a clothespin goes flying… I pick it up, grateful to be an eight-year-old witness to their joyous celebration of this day-to-day routine. This morning, it was the act of putting a wooden clothespin in my mouth that reminded me where I came from. xxxx
The laundry part of a mother’s life, whether you are leaning in with a squad of nannies and maids scrubbing collars or swinging the basket of wash yourself in between all the other jobs you hold, is ubiquitous. We all do it. The world over, as my friend Catherine Anderson witnesses in her photographs from Italy this fall. What Beth captures in her memory, we all live, the hands shaking out wet sleeves, stretching sheets to dry in the sun. What has been done for us, we can do for others.
And laundry persists, even in the lives of men who do their own wash, whether because of gender or job description or by lifestyle, the laundry gets done. During the government shutdown, my National Park Ranger friend Todd hung his wash, ever the green live-r and ever aware of the grace provided by this simple chore. I trust Todd was comforted in this industrious act of self-care while he waited for his job at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to be restored.
This morning I read a piece about writing and motherhood by Janelle Hanchett on www.allparenting.com. She responded to the view that in order to become a writer, you have to travel the world alone to find what is interesting about life. Janelle relates that after being at home with her three children, she recovered her writing voice.
“I don’t think there is more to life “out there” than there is right here.”
Here, for Janelle, is being home with three kids.
Here, in my case, is being home with one kid away at pre-college and one kid in the hallway, bounding in to my studio to print her journalism report. She is wearing the very shirt that was drying on the line just an hour ago, when I got distracted from writing the first lines of this piece, back, when I was recovering from the overwhelm of Social Media, the fuggy smoke contained in Pandora’s Jar.
What was caught under the lid of Pandora’s Jar, the saving grace for her and for all of us women in a mythological sense, was hope. For me, hope, which is a connection to the goodness of the past and the possibility of the future, is these ordinary stories, of laundry and the people who do it. Please find a new Out of the Mouths of Babes blog writer, whose stories fuel her with hope and some amazing music. Raina Rose leads off the resurrection of the blog series, with many stories by other women to follow. Jennifer Gandin Le sent me Barbara’ Crooker’s poem, Ordinary Day this morning, which seems written for all of us, especially Raina because of the cheese grater. Just read it and you will get my reference. Thank you JGLe.
So, this is my life.
Tweet about it if you like.
I will be listening for the birds in the early morning and letting those tweets be enough for me today.
The other 29,999 Twitter followers I should have, according to those who set standards for new writers in Social Media, will have to wait.
I have wash to hang.
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch’s little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa’s ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken’s diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.
This poem appears with permission of the author.”Ordinary Life” by Barbara Crooker, from Ordinary Life. © By Line Press, 2001
Here’s Raina. She is playing in the Boston area this weekend.