Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I can remember when I was a teenager, at the height of the cold war between my father and me, both of us suddenly one day standing back in awe, as we simultaneously became cognizant of the glue job my mother was doing of keeping flock and fold together. It was a serious revelation for me of her hard work and dedication to the family, and as unhumblable as I was, it served to humble me.

I'm reading THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by Philip Roth. Yes, THAT Philip Roth. He's gotten to be a pretty good writer in his old age. Here is an interesting quote that took my by surprise last night. He is describing a late 1930's New Jersey small-town Jewish community, but actually also describing America everywhere at that time:
"The men worked fifty, sixty, even seventy or more hours a week; the women worked all the time, with little assistance from labor-saving devices, washing laundry, ironing shirts, mending socks, turning collars, sewing on buttons, mothproofing woolens, polishing furniture, sweeping and washing floors, washing windows, cleaning sinks, tubs, toilets, and stoves, vacuuming rugs, nursing the sick, shopping for food, cooking meals, feeding relatives, tidying closets and drawers, overseeing paint jobs and household repairs, arranging for religious observances, paying bills and keeping the family's books while simultaneously attending to their children's health, clothing, cleanliness, schooling, nutrition, conduct, birthdays, discipline, and morale..."

Yeah. I'll take the men's job.

And this, from a Stephen Vincent Benet poem, describing a mistress of a plantation, as a woman able:

To take the burden and have the power
And seem like the well-protected flower

The women in my life--wife and mother and grandmothers all--have shown this multi-talented multitasking skill that men frankly don't regularly notice. Our egos tend to blind us. They hide their talents in plain sight, and shake their heads when we take them for granted. So it has ever been.

One has to wonder which of Solomon's wives he was thinking of when he (ok, purportedly; perhaps) penned these words:
An excellent wife, who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels,
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants
a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hands to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her;
Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty in vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31

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