Flipping through my mom’s old yearbooks as a kid, I was taken by the bouffant hairdos and the small-town charm of her tiny East Texas high school; I was also amazed that there appeared to be basically two clubs in the whole place. Guys got funneled into the Future Farmers of America. The young women? Future Homemakers of America.
Farmers and homemakers. Boys and girls. Public and private. Knowing the incredible life my mom has lived — as a high-powered vice president at major American manufacturing company, brilliant accountant, veterinary technician, working mom — it really doesn’t seem like “future homemaker” encompasses even a little bit of what she had the potential to do, or what she ended up doing, in her life.
Certainly “homemaking” didn’t sound very appealing to me, either as a kid or a young professional woman. Getting excited about new drapes? Advancements in vacuum cleaning technology? No, when I want excitement, I’ll go for whiskey or a deadline or both.
Which is why it’s interesting — and maybe a little embarrassing — that my heart began racing this morning when I saw an advertisement on television for Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations.
There Patrick and I were, laptops a-blazing in the bed as we watched Sandy storm coverage on network television, coffees in hand, and I swiftly abandoned a browser full of weather maps for an instructional video on countertop sanding.
You have to understand, our kitchen countertops are offensive. They’re that cheap, granite-ish-marble-esque laminate. The color of barf mixed with old, moldy tea. I like our landlady, but she has atrocious taste in home décor; and coming from me, the woman who’s toted the same cat-hair-slathered hot pink Target rug through five apartments, that’s saying an awful lot.
As a renter, I’ve never been much of a do-it-yourself type. It always seemed like more trouble than it was worth to paint a wall I’d have to restore to its original shade of cheap, faded eggshell upon move-out. I’m usually so excited about an apartment with an ice-making freezer that I can barely entertain the thought of something as exciting as a toilet paper holder that doesn’t threaten to fall off the wall with every pit stop.
But when Patrick and I moved into our first actual house together last fall, that all changed. I sewed custom curtains for the windows and Patrick built a picnic table for the backyard. We’ve slowly added pieces to our favorite IKEA furniture collection — I’m looking at you, MALM! — and earlier this month, we went hog wild on the yard with fake spider webs and spooky ghosts hanging from the trees. We even bought a fog machine so we can super freak out the hordes of trick-or-treaters I’m hoping will come by, only to have the pants further scared off them by one of us in an elaborate bush-person costume.
I love making a house with my husband. It’s a rental, but I’ve never felt as attached to a place as this one, the one that holds the new life I’m building with Patrick. I am that asshole I used to make fun of people going to Home Depot on Sundays and cooing over glossy paint. It used to seem so, so dorky to do stuff like that.
Certainly the homemaking I do isn’t the kind that Clarksville High School had envisioned for the young women of the class of ‘68 — making pot roasts for a horde of children, smoothing out my dress before Hubby sweeps through the door at 6:30 on the dot to receive a thoughtfully mixed martini. I work full-time from home and let Patrick mix his own drinks. But it’s homemaking nonetheless. I take pride in our well-stocked mid-century bar and in my meatloaf recipe.
To some degree, I’m probably more interested in making a house a home because I’m older, wiser and less willing to sleep in a mattress plopped on the floor. And I surely owe my new interest in homemaking in no small part to the consumerism that fuels it, making it so easy to believe that a brushed nickel towel rack is what’s been standing between me and true happiness. To be a grown-up is, at least a little bit, to buy crap that must be installed with a hand-drill.
But falling in love has had a way of making me do all kinds of nutty things. Before I was married, I told myself (and anyone else who would listen) that I would never live with a guy before I tied the knot. After all, I was already having sex with my boyfriends and spending plenty of nights together. I wanted something to really feel different upon marriage.
And yet Patrick and I moved in together months before we got engaged. It made sense in so many ways — financially, practically — but mainly it just made us really, really happy to be with each other more. He moved into my place because it was bigger, and we tossed or donated the duplicate IKEA pieces we shared thanks to a bizarrely similar taste in cheap Scandinavian furniture. That apartment felt more home-like than any other I’d rented, particularly with Patrick in it. But it didn’t feel like us. Our new house? It’s us.
Especially with that badass new toilet paper holder we installed over the weekend.
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com.