Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Hate Housework!

It's tedious, monotonous and infinite! I resent the fact that Hagar doesn't do as much as me and has somehow managed to morph a relationship founded on equality to one of segregated conjugal roles! How did this happen? At the same time, I know that I lead a privileged existance and inside my soul I should be pleased to serve my family and create the nest that they all need to function to the optimum. Yet, I can't help it - it really pisses me off that it's me that has to be the slave!

My gran, Betty, was the guiding light of my life. She was one of 14 children. She grew up in a country village near Peterborough. My great-grandfather was a drunk, and had drank, and gambled, his father's fotune away. Gran lived in a tumbled down cottage, she and her siblings would have to collect the family's water from a pump in the middle of the village square. At 14, she left home and moved to Coventry to live in lodgings with her sister Pearl. She worked as a secretary to an army officer.

At 16 she met my grandfather, Ginge, (a redhead - the clue is in the nickname), he had been dragged up working on the docks in York. His father was murdered with a dockers claw for his wage packet. He slept rough around York docks until he was 15. When the war came he was called up and enlisted to the RAF as a rear gunner. According to my very uncharitable father, he was a big boozer and spent most of the war in the brig for drinking offences, hence the reason he managed to survive a role, where death was almost guaranteed.

After the war, Ginge and Betty married, and moved to York, where they were issued a council house at 49 Tenent Road. This is where they lived until they both died. They had four children. My mother was one of them. She was the eldest and born in 1947. Life at 49, as it was always known through my raising, was pretty turbulent. Gran and grandad had come from nothing and they had nothing. The house was furnished with filth, orange boxes and love. Grandad was now working at Rowntrees Macintosh as a painter and decorator; a job he held until he retired at the age of 60. Ginge was a drinker - he loved his booze. He could open his throat and pour the amber nectar down his neck in voluminous quantities. His greatest achievement was that he could drink a pint in under 5 seconds.

He could be found in The White Rose most nights, drinking and playing dominos. My mum quite often would have to pull him, and his bike, out of the hedge in the morning and make sure he got to work on time. Betty kept the home fires burning, stoically and cheerfully - held together by tots of brandy and many fags. He was a womaniser as well. When Ginge's fancy women would turn up at the back door, gran would shriek, "Gin-ner! There's a women here, says you are leaving me. Are you going?'

"No Bette," would be the sheepish response.

"Did you hear that?" Gran would spit at the doorstep daliance.

"Now sling yer hook."

Betty's darkest day was when my mother committed suicide at the age of 26. She could never speak of it. She put it in a secure vault and buried her grief deep inside her soul, never to be unlocked. In fact it took until I was 18 years old before she could put a photo of my mum, amongst the collection of family memoribilia, framed and set amidst the vast array of porcelain birds.

Through this rollercoaster of a life, my gran served her family and her grandkids and others as well. She cleaned, washed and ironed - singing terribly, crooning. She fed every stray dog and child in Tenent Road. Many kids sought refuge from life at Betty's house. You would never know who would be living there and for how long. She couldn't bear to see a child in pain.

She worked as a barmaid in The Mania Bar at York Station Hotel. She was straight out of Andy Cap - lacquered blonde hair, bright pink, powder and paint, back skirt, white shirt, with an ample cleavage and killer patent leather heels. How she worked shifts in these shoes, I have no idea. On day shifts, she would sneak me in and hide me from the management. Whenever, the bosses came down I would scuttle behind the crisp boxes, under the bar and wait for them to leave. My reward for silence and stillness was 10p for the fruit machine, that would often multiply magically into a £1.

All she did was work, smoke, sing, dance and celebrate life. She waited on all of us. She said she was born to serve. 'You come to my house to relax', she would say to me. She was proud to serve her family. Her house was a real refuge. My refuge. I called it the 'bosum'. The bosum of Betty.

Betty Smith

Like a shining star,
A blooming flower,
Early morning and a face that is sour.

She can be bright and gay,
Like a sunny day.
She has a twinkle in her eye
And a sparkle in her smile.

She is loaded with love,
She is armed with style.

With a life full of pain,
It is from her that I gain,
That at the end of the day,
When it is all said and done
And push comes to shove
There is no one like Betty
She defines the word love.

I think of my gran and the spirit she inspired me within me. I give myself a little pep talk. I am blessed to have such a wonderful gift with my life, two gorgeous children, the handsome Hagar, a beautiful nest to raise my kids and yet no matter how much I try I still can't help hating housework!!! It's so boring and pointless!!! When Hagar comes home and I have cooked a fabulous home-cooked meal, with fresh ingredients, from scratch, and then I end up doing the washing up, and putting the kids to bed as well. The nagging 'I am not born to serve' battle unleashes itself. I blame Thatcher! She was a false icon - she had staff and a millionaire husband! I need me some of those. It's no good, I can't help it - I hate housework. Right, that said I have to go and make the beds. The battle continues on.......

"Someday I’m going to do and say everything I want to do and say, and if people don’t like it I don’t care." - Scarlett O'Hara

First written by me at my new blog:



Marla said...

Oh, I LOVE this post!! Love it!! The story of your grandmother was wonderful. Well written and from the heart. Thank you so much for sharing her with us.

I understand about the housework slave part, by the way. :-)

Modern Military Mother said...

Thank you Marla!

Wendy said...

Yes - what an interesting post - I loved it. Now as for the dreaded house work. I remember years ago visiting my sister in law with all my family there and hers and she had cooked a lovely meal. A roast dinner which takes a fair bit of preparing and cleaning up afterwards. Now she had the smallest kitchen - a shoebox really - and I was getting disgruntled over doing the dishes and she seemed so happy to do them. She turned to me and said the weirdest of things " I just love having this many dishes" I looked at her as if she was insane and then she said "This many dishes means that I had company for dinner and that I had food to eat" Well it floored me and changed my ways forever with regard to dishes. Same goes for washing machines because I can remember clearly having to wash my babies dirty nappies by hand because I could not afford a washing machine. I remember using an esky because I had no fridge for a while. I have just come to accept that housework is NEVER done and I just don't fret about it. I find that if we just put things away - like the saying goes "everything in it's place" - and the house looks okay. Cheers, Wendy

Modern Military Mother said...

Thanks, Wendy. You are so right. I have two young kids and they just keep on churning out the chaos. I do try to accept it but it's just that it's multiplied by 3 = 2 x child, 1 x husband, which is my blessing but I can't seem to love it, especially when I am the only one doing it!

Lynne Walker said...

Very compelling--I couldn't stop reading it. Thanks for sharing.

Cynthia Pittmann said...

Mrs. McN, I so enjoyed your sketch of your gran, and wondered what you thought about your own mother's suicide. What happened? Was she depressed because of a particular incident?

The lightness you make about housekeeping and serving might not be so light? I hated to do many of the housework jobs-expecially dishes but my husband would do a good clean up every couple of weeks. I appreciated that- he also did the laundry. Notice the past tense!

Now I have to do most everything or it doesn't get done. (Work stress and my ability to multi-task has become a problem-because I can do more.) But sometimes I think it's out of balance. The kids are growing up and I still have so much to do. I think my headaches and days of procrastination are symptoms of repressed resistance to this and other circumstances in my life.

Thank God, I have that ability to forget- like your gran- and I don't mope around. I just isolate myself when I'm not fit for compaqny- and pretend until real joy and appreciation returns to my heart.

Thanks for sharing your story. It made me think and want to read more!