The kids are all out of the house, gone back to university and their own agendas. We are alone here as the dust settles from Christmas, waking up slowly and without much stress. There is not much going on, and it is raining. The question comes to mind, “What shall I do today?” and the answer echoes back, “Not much, please”.
We go through an unhurried breakfast routine, drinking coffee and then a few mundane tasks like putting dishes in the dishwasher. She is chopping tabbouleh for later and on Skype with her family. I wander off to read a book in the bathtub. Really, it is a lie. More like, I am going to put the book beside me, close my eyes and listen to the sound of the rain and the traffic outside, and not much more. It might be enough for today.
There is all that list of things to get to, but nothing urgent. There is just me and she and four walls and it is pretty comfortable. The honey do list is pretty caught up with things to fix and clean, and she also is fairly relaxed and not pressing things.
There are times within the four walls of family life where the going gets tough and the tough get going and you are largely consumed with all those things you have to do. And then there are those rare times, when really, you don’t have much that is pressing. The rain is a good excuse. The outside work can wait, and there is not much to do for entertainment out of the house when it is raining anyway. We might go grocery shopping. She laughs when I tell her that I like grocery shopping with her a lot. It is kind of dumb, but it makes me think of when I had my first apartment and came home with my first set of mugs and put them in the cupboard, and filled my fridge with food. I was setting up house and home, nesting I think they call it. Only now, with company. And it is not too bad. Domestic life can be pretty pleasant.
Little children seem naturally to fall into those archetypal games, the one we called “mommy and daddy” when we were very small. It was all about domestic routines. The more conventional term is “playing house”, but our problem was that we lacked a girl to play mommy. Someone had to volunteer to take one for the team. Still, there seems to be something seminal in human nature that desires to keep house, one with another. In the Bible they say a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto another and they shall become one flesh. I think keeping house, is it.
My own wife is pretty sharp at her game, though I could get into problems stating anything about gender roles in today’s world. She herself tells me things, like “don’t buy groceries, that’s MY territory”. So it seems we have territories, or at least understood portioning off of just who is going to do what. That’s ok, I think. It’s generally a “water finds its own level” kind of equation. You will work it out, especially if you live together long enough. You will get good at all the little things that seem to be instinctual, the things you can assume about your daily routine that also depends on another. When people get widowed or bereaved, that might be what they miss most. It’s not the big things as much as the little things, the keeping house kind of things.
I think of other couples who didn’t stand the throes of all life dumps on you in middle age. Later on I wonder if they regretted getting too hot headed and what they do with their spare time. Keeping house with just one other person can be pretty nice, especially if you’ve paid your dues up front and there is nothing wanting.
My parents also come to mind. They had a busy household. Lots of stress. A lot of times where you felt like life was shoehorning you into place, and not too nicely. And then I remember after all of us leaving home, there was a dramatic change... they didn’t have too much to do and they were just keeping house. It seems they were quite calm, and they really liked each others’ company, and they had their own routines. It was a shock to me, as offspring of the marriage. It wasn’t really about us, we were just the byproduct. It was really just about him and her and keeping house.
Keeping house might be under rated. Today I like it. There are things I could do, but I’m not going to do them on purpose. There is just me and she and four walls not up to much, and it is enough.