Like well iron’d linen
Placed in a scented drawer
Memories are kept
I have been domesticated for most of my adult life. I married young, working class girls in the seventies didn’t really have the benefit of the sexual liberation of the upper and middles classes that had happened during the earlier decade. I suspect if I had stayed on at school after sixteen that might have changed but as a GPO telephonist rings on fingers were the measure of value and my apprentice fitter husband-to-be obliged with a cubic zirconium. That marriage ended after 12 years and I am now just a year out of a 25 year marriage. I had children between the years of 1981 and 1996 so until last year I had had a child under eighteen for 33 years. That’s a lot of tea on the table at 6 o’clock, and a lot of ironing.
There were days when the washing machine was on from morning to evening, and the laundry was drying and piled high throughout the house. I never minded it. I loved the smell of freshly washed cotton and like Patti Smith in her memoir Woolgathering considered myself a “diligent laundress”. I took pleasure in my skill at it and at keeping house. It never occured to me that this could be anything but a good thing to do and maybe it wasn’t but I certainly haven’t climbed any mountains, travelled very far or written that marvellous novel in a cafe because I was too busy doing the washing.
Like the pretend diamond ring my first husband bought me this was the currency of my love for my family. Care, taken with their bodies and their possessions, a framework and a structure created to allow healthy growth. A house full of books and musical instruments but not the latest trainers. A desire to provide experiences not more things. Meals at the table, takeaways in front of the TV with Top Gear, ironing on Sunday teatime. I was the rhythm section in this band, steady, unfaltering, always there.
Until I wasn’t.
The silence of that absence of a beat to live my life by is both deafening and liberating to me and I imagine it is so for my children and ex husband. I don’t know that because talking about these things with them is surprisingly (or maybe not) not one of my skills. I flee from their potential judgement of me and my actions, from their hurt, and from their anger. I crave an easy intimacy but I feel I have many difficult lands to travel through before I can get to that safe ground.
Part of the challenge (do you see that positive framing there?) of the place I find myself in is to create my own rythmn for this time in my life. I need a steady one, one that will help me not to freeze or flee when I get triggered. When I get a phone call or see a face I care about and I find myself and my responses just so wanting, so much less than I think they should be. The way in is the way into a rythmn in music, feel it in my body, in my feet first, then tap it out, over my heart, eyes closed, my focus only on that, only on that.
So I wash and iron and fold and pack away. Creating more memories in a scented drawer.
Washing the past, wishing the future, being here now.