by Janis Patterson
Someone once said that a messy desk was the sign of superior intelligence. If that is indeed true, I must be sublimely smart. If the theorem extends to the entire house, I am indubitably a freaking genius.
The good housekeeping gene is said to skip generations, and I believe that. While my mother was a nacky-poo housekeeper who even dusted the ivy leaves and off whose floor you could eat if you were ever so inclined to do such a peculiar thing (a saying I have never really understood), her mother was a certifiable disaster. Given that she had a houseful of daughters to raise, a huge garden (which sometimes fed not only the extended family but some of the neighbors as well) to tend, canning and preserving to do, sewing to clothe the family and all the other duties of a poor farmer's wife, some can charitably believe that she would have done better with more time and energy and maybe some help. Nope. I don't believe it. She was like me, someone who regards housework as pretty much a waste of time, as it is unappreciated and gives no permanent reward, besides taking precious resources away from more pleasurable, lasting and permanent things.
Those things are, in my case, my books and doing things with my husband. (Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that I would end up as the neater half of a couple. Neither did anyone else.) We don't have to deal with the preparations for or cleanup from a party, because there's no way we'll let anyone see the state of our house. We don't have to worry about overnight guests, because we don't have a guest room. Titularly our house has three bedrooms - but in name only! One is ours, the middle one was turned into the new library (we have three and are discussing another), with shelves on every wall and over every door and window, and the smallest morphed into my office. (The Husband's office is the small room off the sunroom where the heating unit lived until we remodeled.) I would love to add a large room over the garage to house our tsunami of as-yet-unshelved books, but as that would cost approximately three times what the house cost to build originally, we've decided that we're at the wrong end of our lives to take on such an expense.
So what does this shameful confession have to do with writing? Not much, save that it is a constant source of wonderment to my friends (and utter astonishment to me!) that in the middle of such chaos I am meticulous and as nacky-poo as my mother ever was about my books. I know every character, every motivation, every red herring and misdirection, and very, very rarely put a foot wrong in my stories.
Some unwise persons have ventured reasons for this, such as writing can be done sitting down, which pampers my long-injured and toucheous back and surgery-facing foot, or - according to the braver/more foolish ones - I am bone-lazy. I don't see how they can say that anyone who has written five novels so far this year is lazy, but then I don't see the necessity for moving your refrigerator two or more times a year to wash under it either.
As with so many things in this sound-bite world, I think I found the answer to my situation on a refrigerator magnet. Mine is pillowed beige calico, surrounded by a beige eyelet ruffle, and on it is written in a delicate script, "Dull women have immaculate homes." It was given to me by my sister-by-choice, a wonderful woman who has known me (foibles and all) for over 40 years. Like me, she regards dullness as the eighth deadly sin, but if the refrigerator magnet is right, I don't have to worry.