I beamed as I lined up my items on the counter: Borax, Arm & Hammer, Ivory soap and salt. The packaging on the Borax shows a drawing of a 1950's sink, the kind that have been gutted out of homes into extinction. Above a silhouette of a horse drawn caravan, the package assured me it has been making surfaces shine since 1891. The salt equally impressed me. I wasn't concerned with fancy sea salt or flavor-infused culinary tools, I had gotten my hands on the good ole .79 cent variety. Jewel brand!
I was excited because I was about to make my own laundry detergent.
My friends and I have also been baking bread, breast feeding, mopping our floors with vinegar and just yesterday? We admired these cute little retro aprons - quickly agreeing it would be much better to sew them ourselves.
We are not alone, by the way. Websites like Pioneer Woman
get thousands of hits a day and the book Radical Homemakers
is flying off the shelf. In the modern world of city living, women with degrees, in their 30's who have all the fruits of Women's Lib available to them are choosing to stay home, have babies and make soap. Why?
I myself am perfectly able to afford laundry detergent. In an effort to be socially responsible and even liberated, women like myself are going green, which is going it alone. Buh-bye, mass-produced, chemical-laden, over-priced crap. But going green is really only half the story. There is an urge, I believe, to regain the freedom once enjoyed by hundreds of generations of humans who didn't depend on corporations to get their laundry clean. (Or get nutrition in the mouths of their babies.)
Women's Lib did a lot for society. I am grateful for those egg-throwers and bra-burners because I have the right to vote and my daughter could wind up on the Supreme Court if she so chose. (Or have an abortion.) But the right to work left the right to stay home in the dust. Instead of going on to become doctors and lawyers, many women found themselves tied to cubicles and desk jobs, treading water in lives that now depended on the time-saving, costly conveniences that had become a part of American life.
My friend Chelsea lamented the other day that one of their cars was in an accident. Instead of replacing the old car, they are going to try to be a one-car family. It seemed like a mind-boggling challenge. I reminded her that two car households only became the norm when two-incomes became the norm.
While our generation of women may be seeking a more self-sustaining life, we are dependent on each other for the knowledge to do so. Our mothers raised us on microwave dinners as they scurried off to appointments and left us in the hands of daycare. They are hardly a resource for the best use of Borax.
We are learning, though. Thanks to the Internet and suffering economy, more and more people are learning to free themselves with home made bread. (I can make whole grain, organic for $1 a loaf).
Of course there have been some enhancements since those original days of womanhood. Women like to blog about their domesticity and photography has served to bring it to light as well. I don't think my great-grandma would have ever thought to capture her cornmeal with a $900 camera.