had rats once. Well, twice. Not the New York City kind
that come because you are living in unclean circumstances, although
that kind would probably feel pretty comfy chez nous. No, we live
in Texas, and we got infested with Texas tree rats. Big ol' things
that jump down on your roof from trees, bite holes through the shingles,
then set up housekeeping inside. With you.
My husband first discovered
the problem. He smelled something funky near the stove, thought
it must be a dead mouse, and did exactly what I would have done:
turned the oven up to 500 and figured he'd broil the hell out of
whatever it was. This is kind of our housekeeping style--wait until
something stinks, then do something drastic and inappropriate and
hope the whole thing goes away. In the case of the rats, it didn't
go away, and we ended up hiring expensive, orange-suited rodent
My husband is a professor,
and he is absent-minded, but he doesn't reap the main benefit of
this stereotype--unfettered thought on higher matters. If he smells
a rat, he deals with it. If he can't find his glasses--a typical
predicament for spacey, professorial types--he can't find his glasses.
No dainty woman in an ironed apron says, "Here honey. My goodness,
you're silly! They were right on the bathroom cabinet."
I'm not unusually cruel,
and I do help my husband if I know where his glasses are, but I
rarely do since our house is, basically, a sty, and he puts his
glasses in totally bizarre places--between the links in our chain
fence outside, halfway through a huge stack of magazines, under
our son's rocking horse. I am slightly more organized than my husband,
but I am a slob, a packrat, and, perhaps most important to me, I
am completely adamant in my refusal to be the single-handed grand
orchestrator of our household.
I've heard several of
my harried friends, male and female, say something like: "what
we need is a wife."
Yeah, us too. An unresentful
wife. An unaspiring wife. Someone who is truly fulfilled by doing
housework. But then someone would have to talk to her. I bet she's
This is kind of my dream
(and I think it might be my husband's dream too): writing all day
with healthy and delicious meals magically and silently arriving
at appointed hours in a house that neatens, cleans, then organically
disinfects itself without bothering us.
Not possible? Okay then,
let's say my husband and I do find a wife, and he doesn't have sex
with her (that would upset me), and I don't have to talk to her.
Or maybe we just have a cheerful housekeeper like Alice on "The
Brady Bunch," and we don't have to talk to her either. Here's
the sticky part: what will the kids (we have a baby and a three-year-old)
be doing while we write all day, and all night if the muse so moves
I don't want to shunt
off all of the childcare--just the icky and boring parts. Maybe
I could pop in and out like Mary Poppins on speed. In for the first
step, out for the messy poop. In for the story and kiss good-night,
out for the 2 a.m. wake-up call. Trouble is, I know this doesn't
work. I know the good moments don't make sense, and possibly don't
even happen, without the bad, perhaps more kindly referred to as