Written by . . .
My name is Betsy. I am a child of God, a professor's wife, and a mother of four. We live on the island of Java.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Toward the beginning of the month I often think about Martha Stewart. In an earlier phase of my life I was a subscriber and devoted reader of LIVING magazine, of which my favorite feature is Martha’s calendar, always in the beginning of the volume and plastered with advertisements. I am aware that I am not the only one to appreciate this little gem of domestic idealism. The editors discontinued this feature for a while (Martha was probably incarcerated or something and they felt it drastically altered the mood of the piece) and I heard that the public outcry was so great they were forced to reintroduce it.
Haven’t seen it? It’s glorious. There’s just an item or two for each day of the month, little suggestions for the housekeeping goddess. They range from home to garden, include the cleaning and care of every inanimate object she owns as well as living things of all varieties (excepting children, including cats and dogs). They are spiced up with elaborate preparations for every holiday, real or imagined, known to mankind. She makes homemade soup stock, jams and jellies, pickles, cider, ketchup, granola, sausages, pasta, beer, maple syrup, bread, cheese, baskets, and deodorant. In the fall, she prepares school supplies, puts warmer blankets on all the beds, harvests garlic and carves pumpkins, turns the soil in her gardens, winterizes her home and vehicles, knits new mittens and scarves, and makes advance Christmas shopping lists. Sometimes on Mondays she checks the batteries in all small appliances and smoke detectors. (You know, just something to look forward to.) I confess many of the things she does are completely outside the realm of my knowledge. For example, one February she found time to “check pets for health warning signs.” What did this process entail? How does one even begin to inspect one’s pets? Does it require equipment? Does she then have an item on a future calendar calling for the cleaning, replacing, or organizing of this equipment? The mind reels.
Martha no doubt realizes not every item on her personal calendar will translate to others. Not all of us will “Appear on Oprah to discuss garden borders” or “Visit Norway to photograph fjords.” And even some of the monthly tasks are admittedly a little ridiculous. So why do we like it? For the same reason we like Jane Austen and The Lord of the Rings and Lost. Utter escapism. It’s a window into another world, a world where we all have a cedar-lined linen closet and spend Tuesday mornings pruning the roses in a shady straw hat. A world where there’s a season for everything, where everything is in its proper place, and all is order and beauty and afternoon exercise for the Alsatians. We read it and feel like the lady of the house. We read it and our fingers itch to dispatch our tasks quickly and efficiently, and then mark them off of our to-do lists with neat little checkmarks. We read it and for a moment we live in a perfect world.