I picked up American Housewife at the library on a whim. It had been on my reading radar for a while but I thought I had finished with the housewife-as-literature genre. I was wrong.
This book is the housewife equivalent to your snarky friend. Reading American Housewife was like sitting with my snarky friend, sharing a bottle of wine, and just letting it all hang out. Read this book at the right time and you’ll thank me.
We are de-stuffing. A major work of bringing out all the boxes, sorting through, making decisions of what to keep, what to toss but only after we have moments of our lives flash before our eyes and remember our former selves.
I opened a box to find a half-complete Fulbright application. I had forgotten that particular dream until the papers I’d neatly tucked away brought it rushing back. And my cv, my thesis, my dissertation all on a colorful collection of 3.5″ floppy disks! The kids: What are those? Kids, let me tell me you about the old days before thumb drives. They simply looked at me in disbelief.
And boxes of books I’d read for grad school and for pleasure back when my mind could trace a thought for longer than 30 seconds. And small, delicate things I’d picked up on my travels wrapped in Italian newspaper. We sorted through old photos, old letters. I listed lots of baby clothes on Ebay. The house is still in a state of disorder but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My 13yo son: It is like you had this whole other life. Oh, I did, I did.
Some acts of faith, I believe, have the power to grant us something infinitely wiser than we imagine
Two young, precocious female protagonists in a row. I’m on a streak! Floating in My Mother’s Palm—have you read it? It isn’t so much as a novel as it is stories which seamlessly offer up a glimpse of provincial life in post WWII Germany—all through the eyes of young Hanna Malter. Not to worry, Hegi doesn’t focus on politics or the effects of the war but on the life of young Hanna.
Hanna is growing up in a small German town, Burgdorf, populated by an eclectic cast of characters. The daughter of a dentist and an artist mother, she is often left under the charge of a strict, but forgiving house keeper. Young Hanna is influenced by the gossip of the local librarian, her mother’s unconventional ways, and her parent’s tenants. Everyone within Hana’s sphere has a story to tell and each a secret to keep.
This is a light read, one made more manageable by the small stories about different people in the village and it would make a great addition to your nightstand book pile!
PS: For those that care about such things, my September reading list is up over here.
I cannot fathom how this book didn’t come across my radar before now. It’s everything I want in a book: great writing, Southern flavor, a precocious protagonist, an orphan. And yet, Ellen Foster only appeared on my radar last month. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this little gem of a book was blurbed by Eudora Welty and Walker Percy.
Ellen’s tale begins with this doozie of a sentence: “When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure out this or that way and run it down through my head until it got easy.” And from there we are in her world, a world of abuse, tragedy on the heels of tragedy and yet, in the midst of it all, Ellen, or “old Ellen” as she calls herself, is a survivor full of grit and hope.
If you are not from a particular place the history of that particular place will dwell inside you differently to how it dwells within those people who are from that particular place. Your connection to certain events that define the history of a particular place is not straightforward because none of your ancestors were in any way involved or affected by those events. You have no stories to relate and compare, you have no narrative to inherit and run with, and all the names are strange one that mean nothing to you at all. And it’s as if the history of a particular place knows all about this blankness you contain.
Sunday. Last gasps of the weekend. I’m finishing up Pond. The afternoon was spent swimming and laughing together then picking up the Red Bean from her camping weekend. Now the older two are out together at an activity and I’m holding down the fort with the four younger kids, finishing the last pages of Pond, marveling over how different this year is from last. Different. Not better. Not worse. Different. And I’m learning to adjust as while moving forward.
Saturday morning. Early. A quiet house, a quiet toddler and her baby for company. She’s good company except she likes to say, Mama! Mama! and no matter how many times I acknowledge her, she gets more insistent, louder with her, MAMA! MAMA! She also likes to turn the pages of whatever I’m reading. Apparently I read too slowly for her.
A large family in a small house isn’t conducive to quiet time. Though I suspect a large family isn’t conducive to quiet time period. Kids talking. Kids playing. Kids asking questions. Life, it seems, is lived without a volume button.
This too shall pass. I am loved, needed, taken for granted. And this is as it should be. Somehow in the midst of tying myself to a loud man and having babies, I never shook that need to be alone, to surround myself with quiet. Instead I have learned to seek pockets of quiet. I make do with small pockets quiet while I hunger for long stretches, stretches that extend into days. I know those long and maybe days long stretches are in my future. Until then I do my best to practice patience (practice being the keyword) and take advantage of the small pockets I find. I remind myself a book is written sentence by sentence thus a book can be written in pockets of time. I’m chipping away slowly.
PS: Eyes up loves! I’ll be using some quiet time this week to write another e-letter. Have something you want to ask or want me to write about? Let me know.
PPS: The pen is a PenGem, my go-to pen for the last year or so. I have them in several colors (gold, white, silver, aquamarine, peridot) and use the Uniball hybrid refills (0.5). That is an affiliate link but I’m sharing because I finally found a pretty pen I use and love and you might too!
September. In the Deep South this means you start counting down the weeks until it begins to feel like autumn—I have six weeks of counting ahead. It also means we now have less than two months left in Hurricane Season—fingers remain crossed.
Everything down here has been delayed by weeks because of the flooding so all the extra-curricular activities kickoff in earnest this week. I had my car washed and detailed since I’ll be spending so much time in it driving kids to and fro. It won’t last long but the effort felt good.
I’ve been reading albeit light, frivolous books. The brain fog lately has been well, über foggy so my Virginia Woolf reading binge has come to a grinding halt in favor of other titles which are more easily digestible or don’t require as much deep thinking. I’ve updated my reading list with the titles I read in August. If you’re a Jane Eyre fan, Jane Steele was a fun little romp of a read.
There is a lot of what ifs right, uncertainty. And for once I’m letting go, not fighting the flux. It is oddly liberating to let go and just be. Why did it take me so damn long to have that lightbulb moment?