1. Gardening: time spent on my knees in the dirt, patting down soil, ripping weeds, talking to budding flowers and plants. Strolling through greenhouses with big plans for the summer, and watching tomatoes plants with such intense observation you’d think they were a work of art (which, tomatoes, attempted, cajoled, to be grown in Montana, are).
2. Pensive, sometimes labor intensive housework. Puttering in the yard. Thinking about furniture. Picking out plates and reveling over my grandmother’s gifted china.
3. Knitting and other crafts, like floral arrangements, card making. Photographs.
4. Setting a fine table: No plastic tubs of sour cream, yogurt or jugs of milk allowed! Don’t even think about that bulgy bottle of ketchup.
5. Folding cloth napkins and organizing the recycling bin.
6. The magic of a cold beer on a hot day after working in the sun.
When I was a child I was in utter disbelief that my mother could derive so much pleasure from papery tulip bulbs, packages of seeds, and containers of baby greens. Who would want to weed? Who would want to spend their weekend harvesting vegetables? Boring. There are so many better things to do than grow bok choy, pick strawberries and gather bunches of lavender from the yard.
Then, knitting. Seriously. Hats, scarves, mittens, shawls and blankets. Good grief. All those skeins of yarn in buttery and vibrant colors. Soft to the touch and sometimes lacy. Mom, why would you want to sit up on a winter’s night, tucked into your flannel nightgown with a ball of yarn strewn around your slippered feet? Isn’t there something better and more exciting you should be doing? Like talking on the phone for hours, reading Seventeen and staying on top of pop music hits? No?
Old earthenware bowls. Antique hutches. Floral sheets. Vintage table clothes and ceramic pigs. Why would anyone spend the money on old stuff? Come on Mom. This stuff is old. Ancient. Well worn. Who cares? Your mother’s china saved for me? As if that’s important. And why do we have to separate plates, cups and bowls for holidays? What’s wrong with the stuff we use everyday?
I don’t think a meal would be ruined if the milk jug sat on the table. When you slop yogurt it into a different dish it only means your hardworking and dutiful daughter will just have to wash one more dish. Why does it matter? And candles? Who needs candles?! We’re having pork chops.
Ok, ok, I get that you don’t want to waste paper and trees. But really, cloth napkins and matching placemats? Do they really have to match? Sometimes they have to be ironed! And do I really have to set the table? Can’t the silverware just be strewn about the table? I assure you your family will eat. Why does this even matter? Other major things going on in the world, Mom. And is it really that big of a deal that plastic #1 commingles with tin cans?
Cold beer? Hot day? Oh, wait: I’ll get this one when I turn eighteen (the others might take a bit longer to grasp). Remember the time you asked me to mow the lawn on a particularly hot July day before I had to work, waiting tables, that night? Well, I did it. I actually did. And then, when it was over and I was sweating, I went into the kitchen. In the fridge were a couple of beers: Labatt Blue’s, I believe. I remember how you’d thirst after that first cold beer of a hot Saturday afternoon once the never ending list of chores were complete. I always thought lemonade or a Coke was a better choice than beer in the afternoon, skin seared by the sun. But then, I wondered. What’s the big deal about this beer after yard work? Well, Mom. I opened that bottle of beer. I sat in the freshly mowed lawn, wiped my brow and lifted the bottle to my lips. It tasted like heaven.