Wednesday, June 9, 2010

9 June 1956 “Becoming Our Own Domestics and Living In Our Own Five Star Hotels”

maidandlady I was thinking today how I treat my “work time” and my “me time” ( a very modern term, I know) quite separately. And although the ME in that statement might seem rather 2010 more than 1956, I believe the 50’s homemaker, without the psychological explanation of what she was doing, was rather doing the same thing. To treat that ‘work time’ as very much real work seems an almost alien concept to most modern people. When you understand that you suddenly see why it is so undervalued or not valued at all. Why people consider it only drudgery, even people who have to work very menial ‘paying jobs’ most likely consider the Home Arts more chore than challenge, more Criminal than Career.
This was how I came to see this in myself today. I was about my usual ‘daily routines’ and had just collected up all the washcloths, dishcloths, etc, that I change out. I collect them up daily for their eventual weekly wash day. After that I go about and lay out their ‘new’ replacements. As I laid out, on my freshly cleaned sink, the new dry iron and folded dish rag, I felt as if I was the ‘maid of the moment’. That I was, in fact, the domestic ( a very real job) and that the “ME Time” Me was reaping the rewards of such a thoughtful and efficient housekeeper. Certainly my historical counterpart felt very much the same in that she had a job to do, she did it to the best of her abilities and then had time and made time to read, relax, craft, make herself up, be dressed for the shops and when hubby was home, have time to show off her skills at cooking and baking at home gatherings and enjoyed keeping her hat and gloves on and being ‘treated’ as the lady in her friends home for their gatherings. No over analyzing needed. Her job was real, seen so by society and therefore she did it and also had a Life. In many ways we have no ‘outside’ life and we still make no time to do, ugh ‘housework’ that’s drudgery. Why make your bed, it’s just going to get messed up again any way, right?
Well, many people rush about all year and give away a week or two a year to go on holiday. For that chocolate on the pillow and those few moments to read by the pool or share a nice meal with loved ones. For me, and I think for the 1950’s family (at least many of them) such treats were enjoyed as a part of normal daily life. Even breakfast, for example, was a place where people daily were treated as if in a lovely little diner or restaurant. Again, you, the Homemaker, might be the chef and then waitress, but if you do a good JOB then when you magically become the breakfast guest along with your family, won’t you be happy for those flowers on the table or the few kitchen plants you keep in lovely ceramic holders that you trade out for centerpiece. To have that nice ironed linen napkin on your lap as you sip your fresh squeezed juice? Why, the syrup is heated so as not to cool the pancakes and your little butter pats are soft to the touch, what great service! Conversation (no texting or tv), laughter and sharing of one another’s life or plans for the day.
We’ll send something back in a restaurant if it is not right, we will complain about dirty silverware or smudged drinking glasses. We will be upset if a  store does not have what we want or the dressing rooms are a mess. Yet, our own lives and home, the place we spend much of our time, we care less about. There we put up with and in some cases simply expect the worse service, that most wretched food and the poorest conditions of cleanliness and overall atmosphere. It’s just a place where the tv and computer lives, where we can flop about eating corn chips from bags or pizza out of boxes as we watch our ‘shows’ (re-runs we have seen a million times) and not care a scrap about it. Go to a hotel or a restaurant on vacation and expect that, no way? So, do we really only deserve a week a year as payment for all the work and stress we do have through the rest of the year? Or, do we deserve better? And if so, can we make it better? I think so.
Think about the things you like to do on Holiday/Vacation. Do you like a quiet peaceful cabin on the lake? Do you like to pamper yourself with nice meals and dressing up? Make a list (yes the list returns again, it is SO helpful) of the things you and your spouse/and or family enjoy or dream of as Relaxing, Fun, Pleasure, Pampering and then see if there are not ways to make that a part of your daily life. Your life at home.
Simply preparing yourself and getting into the habit of the thing is half the battle. If you are a Stay-at-home, then certainly we have much time in the day to make our homes thus. But, even if you are a ‘working gal’ with a little prep and routine, you would be surprised how much of your ‘me time’ at home when not at work can be served by being your own domestic for part-time during each week. Think about it, just take even 1/2 an hour of your tv/computer time and dedicate it to being your own maid and you will find cook ahead food in the freezer, ironed napkins in the linen drawer, time to slip that sectioned grapefruit and juice on your breakfast table with hubby that morning if your ‘little maid’ saw fit to do it before going to bed and putting it in the ice box.
I think Breakfast is a fun way to introduce a change in how we view and eat our meals. Many may not want to try out the big dinner at the table, so why not try the early morning family breakfast? This article in my 1953 Better Homes and Gardens  tells us: “Yes, Breakfast Can be lovely!” and it goes on to tell us
You can have attractive breakfast tables-meals as memorable as those served in the dining room. With planning, such a meal is little more work than the usual hasty, makeshift breakfast. These tables are set simply but well-just right for happy, family get-togethers in the kitchen.
breakfasttable1 Round table with yellow plastic surface and comfortable wire barrel chairs encourage pleasant family circle meals in the Mandel Hopkins Dutch blue breakfast nook. Black wire lazy Susan in table’s center is a combination step saver and efficient server. Here it holds the entire meal. Scalloped wire place mats match the lazy Susan.
(Click on the images below to see larger and read corresponding text)
breakfasttable2 breakfasttable3
So, even if you were to just try (assuming you don’t already) having at least one meal at table With nice china, water pitcher, food in serving dishes (no boxes or bottles of dressing-no advertising or packaging) you might find yourself slowing down and enjoying your food and your company. And it isn’t really just food, no that is really just the tip of the iceberg, to how we can change little bits of our home life to feel more as if we are on vacation or just simply ‘enjoying our life to the fullest’. We need to sit down and have a good but firm talk with the domestic in us, telling ourselves we not only Need but Deserve to have a well run ship and nice accommodations and meals. You would not visit an hotel that treated you poorly, was dirty or had bad service/food/ambience, so why return again and again to a home that does not feel welcoming or only serves as a sort of fast food restaurant with tv and computer and a freezer full of unappetizing frozen food. You might be surprised how well you do when you slip into your little ‘maid mode’. Give it a try, you might like what you find.
I had intended to talk about a good Vintage Fashion Primer, but I think that will hold until next time. I think we all need to get out our pens and pads and start jotting down how we would like to live if we had a maid or were in an hotel and then think about how we can serve ourselves. And, after all, who better knows what you really want than you?
Until next time, Happy Homemaking.
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