11 Oct This Pandemic Has Turned Me Into A 1950s Housewife
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 18.10.21
Shortly after 6am last Saturday, you would have found me in my kitchen with the entire contents of the fridge laid out on the bench. Not because I was hungry and about to whip up an omelette at dawn. Nope, this was me pulling out all the shelves and fittings to wash them down, and checking use-by dates on forgotten jars of chutney.
I’d woken early – a thing I do now I’m not working at night – and rather than reaching for a book, I’d decided to get up and get on. I have new microfiber cloths I swear by, and I’m trying a different brand of thick liquid cleaner. I hardly know myself.
On Sunday morning, you’d have found me on my hands and knees washing the floors, scrubbing skirting boards and – if you’d timed it right – shutting myself inside the pantry so I could wipe the inside of the bi-fold door which no one can see unless they’ve shut themselves in the pantry. No one, of course, has ever shut themselves in the pantry until now.
I am all about the cleaning and cooking, and shopping from brochures and dreaming of evenings out. Recently, I heard myself say, “I feel like an adventure so I’m going to the supermarket, bye!” This pandemic has turned me into a 1950s housewife, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
I suspect my mother would have approved. As much as she enjoyed the work I did out in the world, I know she felt my housekeeping could be a little lax. She rarely mentioned it, but on the odd occasion I polished the silver water jug (wedding gift from her) turning it from tarnished orange to mirror shine, she might say a little tartly, “Is it Christmas already?” Meaning I must be doing this for other eyes, as mine clearly hadn’t noticed it for months. Still, she could see I was pleased with the sparkle of it and she would exhale a little, and smile.
It is true that, back when I spent a lot of nights in hotels – like, you know, in July – I tended to treat my home like a hotel, too. Sleep, eat, do some work, pack a suitcase and go. But I’m here now, noticing tops of doors and finger marks on light switches and suddenly curious about what is stuffed under the spare bed.
I am also – I’ll be honest – going slightly mad. Thank goodness I was born in the sixties because I couldn’t have done the 1950s for more than a few weeks. Much more of this and I will either be burning my bra or getting an online prescription for Mother’s Little Helper, or both.
And yet I will also confess there is pleasure to be found in the sparkling insides of a clean fridge and a well organised drawer. Also piles of clean laundry. I am a feminist, yes, but I prefer my bras washed, not burnt. I mean, have you seen the price of them? And smell the fabric softener on this one.
I have taken to stewing fruit. Sometimes I don’t even plan it, I’ll just be walking past the fruit bowl and suddenly find myself at the stove with its contents. I notice that, as I slice quartered apples into the saucepan, my hands look like my mother’s hands, and they move the same way. You might notice me exhale a little in moments like this, and smile.