Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pat Gets Domestic

We are experiencing a bumper crop of berries this year. Andy and I can’t keep up with the harvest. The blackberries are coming in fast and furiously. One morning I walk down one side of the row of bushes and pick more berries than we can ever consume. I divided them into two large bowls. Andy takes one to his place of employment, I take the other.

The blackberries are a big hit. “Wow, look at the size of these!” one person exclaims as he shovels a Styrofoam cup full for himself. “Do you know how much these cost in the market?” another quizzes me, as he scoops spoons full into his cereal bowl. Next come the reciting of favorite blackberry recipes, as one after the other, each person retells the enjoyment of its consumption.

Now, over the past five years or so, I have systematically been “scraping things off my plate.” (This analogy is perfect since we are talking food here.) One of the items that I have removed is the expectation that I will carry the domestic load. I have been very successful with this and the chores at home are now shared equally and equitably. However, in order to achieve this retraining of ones family, a person needs to go to extremes. Listening to my co-workers makes me think that it is time for a rebalancing. (OK, so what really crossed my mind was this: “I guess it wouldn’t kill me to make a pie once in a while.”)

That evening, as I arrive home Andy is making supper. He does so on the days I go to the gym. (Part of the household restructure plan.) I open the fridge door and put in the store bought pie crust I intend to use later. “What are you putting in the fridge?” he asks. “A pie crust. I’m going to make a berry pie latter.” I say. Andy chuckles and says “good luck with that.” I‘m confused, but shrug it off and go about my business.

We enjoy a great evening meal; I shower, start a load of wash, and then begin the making of the pie. Andy is watching some show on television when he hears the banging around in the kitchen. “What are you doing in there?” he questions me. “I’m making a pie!” I say exasperated. Gee, didn’t I just tell him that a few hours ago? There is dead silence from the living room. Suddenly, I feel an arm around my waist. I look up. Andy is looking down at what I’m doing. “You ARE making a pie!” he says with eyes wide in surprise.” I thought you were joking earlier,” he says.

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

From Misc

Now it is the pie that is a big hit. What happens to me next, I can’t explain. Come Saturday, Andy decides it time to harvest all the apples on the tree. He picks two, 5 gallon buckets of apples. He leaves them by the porch. I look at the apples and suddenly they are transforming into apple crisp. (I know! I don’t understand what’s happening to me either!) The next thing I know, I’m roasting a chicken and inviting a friend to join us.

From Misc

Andy finishes off the last of the pie and apple crisp, the latter with an enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. “It feels like the holidays!” he says. Is that a skip in his walk? I could get some mileage out of this if I were a different kind of person. I realize now, in hindsight, that what first appeared to be expectations others heaped on my shoulders, was really a result of my own doing at not expressing boundaries and limits. It is not our families that burden us; it is what we do to ourselves. (Moms and wives are especially vulnerable.) After all, if someone took care of all your needs without you asking, wouldn’t you let them? Reclaiming your autonomy is not as difficult as it seems. Finding the right balance might be another.

I’m checking out this recipe for kibbee* my friend Steve gave me yesterday. I think I will try it. Not today or tomorrow mind you, but eventually. After all, the scale of expectations is tipping nicely in my favor. I need to maintain the right balance after all.

(Kibbee: A Lebanese dish. Write me for the recipe.)

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