She was an elderly woman from Sienna whom we
met on a trip to Italy. She spoke English
quite well, and in the course of our
conversation she asked, "Is it true that you
American women are slaves to your homes?"
I am an American, I am a woman, and I own my own
home. Am I a slave to it? What a silly, backward idea.
"Of course not", I
respond. Where did she get such an absurd
notion? The very idea. How insulting. This
peasant woman from Sienna, suggesting to me
that I am a slave. Which of us is traveling
to foreign countries:
She or I? Does my life sound like the life of a slave?
When I come back home and back to my environment what do I
feel? Comfort? Oh, Yes! Slavery? Nonsense. And yet her
question haunts me.
It's dangerous for a new idea to be force-fed into your mind. How do
you expel it? It's like a song that repeats and repeats but cannot
be erased from memory.
I think of her question the next time I stay home all day awaiting
the arrival of the plumber, or waste perfectly good time for an
appointment with the electrician. And the computer problem: where
are those Computer Geeks anyway; they're already an hour late. I have other important
things to do.
This is a bad mindset. I will not think of myself as a slave to my
home. I love my home. It always feels wonderful to be back home no
matter how far I've travelled or how long I've been away. I am
reminded of an essay I read years ago in the NY Times.
It said the real value of vacations is that you realize how beautiful
your own home is when you return. It helps you understand and value
the wonderful life you have. That essay stayed in my mind all these
years. It really resonated with me.
But now I have to wait for the stone mason, who has to replace some
chipped flagstones on the patio. The living room sofa is in bad need
of steam cleaning after a visit from the grandchildren.
And I have to be home to sign for a Fed Ex package due to arrive
from Hong Kong.
Why don't I schedule these people on a day Consuelo is here? She can let them into the house
and I won't have to stay home.
But Consuelo doesn't speak english. Although I speak a little
Spanish I can't exactly describe to her what she needs to
explain to the servicemen.
Trapped. I feel trapped. I AM trapped. And I was looking
forward to seeing the new exhibit at the Montclair Art Museum
today. What should I do now? What choices do I have? These jobs have to get done.
Well, I reason, I don't have to waste time. While I'm waiting I can
accomplish some small tasks. How can I make use of the time as I wait
for repair guys?
Putter in my garden? No, that won't work. If I'm out back in the garden I might not
hear the front doorbell ring. If I miss the repairman I'll have to to waste another day
waiting for another appointment. And I'll probably be charged for wasting the technician's
time. I hate being so dependent on service people. I'm a captive audience. I'm at the mercy
of ridiculous service people. What choice do I have?
"What do you call people who must do what is expected of them
without having any freedom of choice?"