The word speaks to me of home – home wherever I am lucky enough to create it, home as the safe haven for my sons, home as fortress, as enclave, as a place for abundance, for essentials, for the contents of my heart.
It’s a term I toss around flippantly and without consideration. But I wonder about its deeper significance, sitting in traffic after the weekly rounds to pick up paper towels, fresh fruit, veggies for soup, a deal on tuna.
Domestic? Pas moi.
Then again, maybe I’m kidding myself.
Domesticated? Likely not.
But when I think about it, maybe I’m wrong.
Domesticity: In Vogue or Out?
Domestic is a term that is emotionally charged. It’s a label generally attached to women, a label equally associated with tedious tasks. It is also a dismissive term for a servant, whose responsibilities include caring for the machinery that runs a household.
According to Dictionary.com, domestic takes its origin in the Latin domus and offers us flavors we might evaluate:
of or pertaining to the home, the household, household affairs, or the family: “domestic pleasures”; devoted to home life or household affairs; tame (domesticated); of or pertaining to one’s own or a particular country…
After considering the freezer with its half loaf of bread and one chicken breast, and the veggie drawer with dead spinach and a handful of carrots, my “domestic goddess” status becomes moot. If I want something other than a chicken and carrot sandwich, I need to tend to my domestic duties.
Domestic Help? Paws to Reflect?
Am I domestic?
Returning home and emptying the car, I’m irked as I note the sink full of dirty dishes, I’m impatient as I unload bags, I’m irritated as I realize I need to clean the fridge and the kitchen – in entirety – at least two hours of drudgery I would delegate to anyone who cares to volunteer.
(Hello? Furry bear slippers? Can you lend a paw?)
Beyond my annoyance, there are indeed moments of pleasure.
I unwind when I wander the aisles of Whole Foods. It isn’t the only place I shop, but one among several where I know exactly what to buy, and on my budget. I’m in heaven navigating the unusual ingredients, and I’m relaxed in the midst of produce in particular – with seductive textures and vibrant colors. (I’m also happy to see exactly what I’m searching for – leeks and red potatoes – for Soupe Hercule Poireau tonight.)
My domestic inclinations? My domestic affairs?
While my morning has been spent in pursuits that are “of or pertaining to household affairs,” I can’t say there are pleasures awaiting when I think of the dishes, the crowded counter top, the fridge, not to mention the floor. I hate to clean. And entering my home, well… that’s obvious.
Looking further at the definition of domestic, am I devoted to home life? Hardly.
I have to earn my keep, I’m on my own, and that leaves little in terms of time or energy to spend “making a home.” What time I do possess I prefer to spend reading, walking, or learning something.
Tame, or domesticated?
Now that’s a far trickier discussion. How do we define tame? In what arenas do we consider it applicable? The human animal is taught manners and morals. Is that alone sufficient to “tame” us? Are we wild in the boudoir, but tame in a confrontation? Are we submissive between the satiny sheets, but vehement in our argumentation?
Domestic as pertaining to one’s own country?
I consider that another discussion entirely.
One More Time. Deep Breath. Homemaking and Making a Home.
I fully admit to adoring the years during which I “created” a home – picking up an antique here, deciding on a fabric there, and especially – the chase for artwork that I could love forever.
I would move chairs on a whim, rehang paintings every few months (as my boys shook their heads), switch pillows on the sofas and chairs as the seasons changed – all of it part of my delight in setting the stage for pleasing a husband, welcoming friends, and making of the process a pleasurable undertaking in and of itself.
Those days are not part of my present, yet I smile when I recall them.
But making a home is so much more than that. Making a home after divorce in a different house was a must, for the sake of my children – and I confess, myself.
But why is it that we’ve come to disparage the term “homemaking?”
Why – though we all benefit from the sensation and grounding of home – have we come to dismiss the investment of ourselves that goes into its “making?”
Home Is Where the Heart Is
It’s cliché and we know it: Home is where the heart is.
I don’t think it’s quite that simple, but I do believe that home matters to millions of us. We needn’t be married. We needn’t have children. We may be dealing with 6,000 square feet or 600. We need and want to carve out a spot that feels like our own.
Where we can relax, feel safe, feel loved.
For you, home may be about dinners on the table or homework around it, parties for the kids in the finished basement, or coffee with a few friends outside on a small deck. Home may be about neighbors gathering, football on the big screen at night, measurements inked on the wall in the spare room – each birthday flagged by a mark and a date for your nieces and nephews, or maybe your grandchildren.
To the extent that I have always cared about my surroundings – from dorm room with stacks of books, to tiny apartments with stacks of books, to a family home (yes, still stacks of books), to a post-divorce life that is “smaller” but no less filled – making a home has always been important to me.
Feeling at home – even more so.
In the meantime, the dishes await, the fridge awaits, and I wish I could put off the cleaning I despise.
These days it’s a pleasure – and more so on the weekends when I’m cooking with someone, and little is tamed, but all things domestic are savored.
As for the extent to which I care about my home, cling to my sense of home, love the warmth and openness of the home that my sons and I created?
I am devoted and committed – to preserving the sense of “us” in this place, the history and laughter we have shared beneath this roof – this place of home, this place of belonging, this safe house where we can be ourselves, this most dear domus.
What about you? Are you domestic? Partially or peripherally? Reluctantly or blissfully?