Firsts. My Hobgoblin+Cocktails (I love the word “cocktail”).
There’s a petition at Sakett’s Parlour – “parlour” means teeny-tiny corner store run from someone’s front gallery and gallery means porch – to reinstate the village council “which has been dormant for too long”.
That’s a polite spin on “some dude has hijacked the community centre and sacked all the programs and we want his ass out, so sign this if you do, too”.
There are three columns: name, age, occupation. Here is an unscientific sampling of the results:
Jane _______, 33, Housewife
Marsha ______, 47, Housewife.
Joan ________, 28, Housewife.
Excepting the TLC franchise (which I loooooove but it’s a cartoon and not real life, right?) I’ve never heard or seen in-real-life women identify as housewives. Stay-at-home moms, yes, housewives, no. This was a first.
The pizza dough I made from scratch did not rise. Was a total failure. This was a first.
The attempt at dough-from-scratch, not the failure. I’m accustomed to cocking up in the kitchen. I’m most excellent at scrambled eggs and anything that involves assembly (salads, for example) and even that’s a wild exaggeration of my skills.
The self-lighting function of the gas stove doesn’t work. You have to turn on the gas, strike a match and light it yourself. I say “you” because it won’t be me.
F lights the stove. Aunty comes over from 10-3 each day and while she’s here, she lights the stove. F lights the stove. Aunty lights the stove. F goes back to Suriname. Aunty lights the stove but she’s only here from 10-3. Eventually I’m so hungry outside the five hours of available stove-lighting that I decide to light the stove. I park the baby by the front door so if I set the house on fire it’s a quick dash out. I’m prepared. I’m scared. I start the gas, flash the lighter, flash the lighter, flash the lighter, turn off the gas lest there’s an explosion, open the windows, let gas evaporate, summon courage, start the gas, flash the lighter, light the stove, triumph in the form of boiled water.
I lit the stove. At home I don’t even light the barbecue. This was a first.
The washing machine is outside. When I lived in Taiwan, the washer and dryer were outside on the rooftop balcony. It was a lovely way to do laundry. Warm air, a view, wash, dry, fold.
Here, too, there’s an outdoor room – tiled floors and countertops, walls, louvered glass windows, half-roofed, half open to the sky, four lines. It’s a delightful place to hang laundry.
I’ve never hung laundry before. It’s meditative, fanciful. I fancy there’s a connection between what I’m doing right now and The Ancestors, An-sisters, mothers past, mothers now, here and around the world.
So I enjoy hanging laundry. I’m surprised at myself, smug. Only a privileged woman who’s never before hung clothes to dry can make it into A Novel Learning Experience. I feel like Frugal Environmental Domestic Goddess Barbie: lookit me! I’m hanging clothes on the line! I’m pulling pieces out of the basket, wondering if the pins will leave unsightly indents in my jersey dresses, wondering if I should hang coloured item inside out (I decide yes, I should) lest the sun fade them, wondering if in fact I’m not Domestic Goddess Barbie because I don’t know how to make pizza dough, light a stove or hang laundry, wondering if there are best practices for hanging laundry.
There are best practices for hanging laundry. I see my sister-in-law’s laundry hung in groups: towels with towels, sheets with sheets, ginch with ginch. Some things are hung with two pins by someone who doesn’t use the word “ginch” for underpants. Some things are hung with one pin, in a kind of artful napkin-on-the-table drape.
“Kelly,” she calls from the upstairs window, the third time I hang my laundry, “when you’re finished, put my clothes pins back in the basket, yes?”
Line-hanging laundry best practices: like with like, put the pins back in the basket.
It didn’t even occur to me to put the pins back in the basket. I left them on the line. Now I am abashed, feel silly, incompetent. I’m hanging laundry…
…like I’ve never hung laundry before. Because I haven’t. This was a first.
My sister-in-law is in the kitchen, kneading dough. She’s making palori, a deep-fried flour-and-saffron fritter served with dipping sauces and chutney. It’s so good that whenever she’s making it, I have to leave before she sets it out, because once I eat one, I can’t stop.
Her husband – Loverloverman’s brother – is in the kitchen, leaning up on the counter, watching, anticipating, smiling. He’s happy. He calls her from work with dinner requests and she makes them. She’s got a sweet hand. She can really cook and she spends all day every day doing just that. Every day she calls me over to try something or brings some yummy thing by. Inevitably each dish is freaking amazing – Indian-Caribbean-fusion-fantasticness – and wildly labour intensive. If I were living in her house, I’d gain a whole lot of happy weight. No wonder her husband is in the kitchen with her.
He’s a good cook too. So is Loverloverman. So is their Aunty and their Mom and everyone in the family except the baby and me.
Which last night, got me to feeling bad, inferior, like I’m a domestic incompetent rather than a Domestic Sex Goddess.
This was a first.
I don’t usually trouble myself about cooking skills. That’s what restaurants are for.
Usually, to myself and to others, I emphasize other skills: I write, I primp, I raise children, I ruin Loverloverman for other women.
But now I realize I am a housewife, just like every other wife and mother around the world who does laundry, hangs laundry, lights the stove. Except unlike a lot of women around the world I don’t have to walk to fetch water or wash clothes by hand or fetch firewood for the stove to boil the water to wash the clothes I wash by hand.
Most of the time, I don’t have to wash anything by hand. When I do have to do things by hand, I don’t know how to do them.
I am a housewife – a privileged one but not a skilled one.
So now, watching Loverloverman’s brother and sister-in-law together in the kitchen, I wonder: is my man getting a bad deal? I don’t take care of him like that. Maybe he wishes I could cook. I could cook if I wanted to, I could get a cookbook, I could take classes, I could do a better job of feeding him.
I could do it but I don’t really want to. I don’t like grocery shopping and I don’t like cooking. I’d be fighting my natural inclinations, which are to spend cooking time writing.
But you can’t eat words.
So I get to feeling even worse. My hobgoblin, Insecurity, returns. She’s been away for a while but now she wants to rent space in my head.
In the morning, I call him. I ask him if he wishes I was a better cook, if he feels like he’s missing out, lacking, because I don’t cook sweet for him.
“That’s not why I fell in love with you. I’m in love with who you are, with your writing, with you. I don’t expect you to cook.”
“You can’t eat words,” I point out.
“But your words earn money for restaurants,” he replies.
I smile. Tru dat. “You’re sure you’re not feeling a lack, like I could do more for you? If you need something, baby, I’ll do it for you.”
“All I need from you,” he says, “is for you to write your book and be glamorous.”
He pauses. “And maybe learn to make cocktails.”
I can do that. I’m delighted to do that. Martini shakers are inherently glamorous which means my uninvited houseguest, The First Hobgoblin of Insecurity, is getting evicted again. Also, she can suck it.
Because my man loves me just the way I am. Stirred, not shaken. And definitely not haunted.
What should I name my first concoction?