Ronda Rich

THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING A HOMEMAKER

 

 

A member of our extended family went to be with the Lord not long ago. It was an unexpected but expected death, long in coming and full of pain and torture.

For me, it is Tennessee Williams who usually comes to mind when death calls. In several of his acclaimed works, he brilliantly declares wisdom on dying and funerals.

This time, I remembered a monologue from Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. “Funerals are quiet but death, not always. Sometimes, their breathing is hoarse, and sometimes it rattles, and sometimes they even call out to you, ‘Don’t let me go!’”

I knew she had struggled to breathe and to speak. So, on that Wednesday morning, a small country church filled with people who came in sorrow not just out of common courtesy. She’d always been a trooper, the first to make cakes and food for those in need.

The preacher told of how the grieving father and his children had sat down to write the obituary and how they struggled to find the perfect word to define a woman almost beyond defi- nition.

“How about ‘homemaker’?” a daughter suggested.

There was no further discussion.

There is a lot of pride attached to that marvelous name. I know that Women’s Liberation began in the 1970s, declaring that women should be freed from child raising and the kitchen. I believe that every woman should choose — but it is not fair to demean the women whose heart is for a comforting home and to raise children who will impact the world.

I’m not a homemaker. I chose the other path of career and, if I must admit, worldly acclaim. Yet, no woman has more of my admiration than those who choose to quietly work behind the scene while serving their husbands, children, communities, and churches. They are our society’s backbone.

Peggy was one of the most astounding homemakers I’ve seen. If it had to do with food, she knew it down to the nth degree. She could plant it, raise it, can it, and cook it. Every year, she’d put up countless quarts of green beans. She knew that my niece, Nicole, loved the luxury of opening a Mason jar of green beans and adding them to a family dinner so Peggy would call at every summer’s end and say, “Come get your green beans.”

She was particularly proud of her peanut butter cake. Whenever the church had a dinner on the ground, she’d say to the folks waiting in line, “Be sure to get a piece of my peanut butter cake. It’s the best you’ll ever have.”

At summer revival, she’d bring me a bagful of green tomatoes from her garden because she knew they were my favorite.

Handing them to me, she’d say, “Now, let me tell you: if you’ll fry these in bacon grease, you won’t believe how good they are.”

A couple of months before she died, I asked her husband, after Wednesday night church, how she was doing.

We were standing on the porch of the church. He looked off into the distance as the sun was setting in bursting colors of orange and yellow. Sadness clouded his eyes.

“Peggy’s not doin’ good at all.”

“Is she still cookin’?”

“Oh no, she had to give that up.” That’s when I knew that death was edging close. He took a moment then continued, “The other night, she made it to the kitchen stool and sat down. Struggling for breath, she told me how to make the pinto beans and cornbread.” He quietly shook his head.

Her eldest daughter never learned to cook. “That’s one of my regrets,” she told me at the graveside. “But she always cooked ‘with a little of this’, ‘a pinch of that’ and ‘a handful of that.’ I couldn’t understand it so I just didn’t.”

Another American hero – a homemaker – has left our midst.

Ronda Rich is the bestselling author of St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.

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