Lately I've been reading and hearing so much about "shared responsibility in the home" that I finally decided to take some of the burden of housekeeping off Phyllis's shoulders.
Knowing that the shock of abrupt involvement on my part might be too traumatic for her, I thought it best to sneak into the process gradually. I didn't want to appear that the work she's been doing alone all these years is not consequential nor difficult.
Because she gets up an hour or so ahead of me each morning, she necessarily delays making the bed until I am awake and out of the room. Relieving her of that little task seemed like a good way to begin my wife saving gesture.
When I was a new private in the army some years ago, I prided myself on the ability to make up my cot neater and tauter than pictured in the training manual. I could pull the sheets and blanket so tightly that a two-bit piece dropped on the bed would bounce almost three feet in the air.
I bounded out of bed 20 minutes earlier than usual. It took me a little while to recall how to make the military-style envelope fold at the corners. But once I figured it out, I was on my way.
I had to admit that the half hour it took me was a trifle long, but the artistic effect was worth the effort. Strangely though, when I tried the money-dropping test, I didn't get the same results as I did back in '42. I'm sure it was because those new copper-centered quarters don't bounce as well as the old silver ones.
After the bed-making triumph, I decided to help in the kitchen and for breakfast Eggs Benedict sounded good to me. Phylllis searched through her card file for the recipe. For this special occasion, I asked her to get me a couple skillets, for poaching the eggs and frying the ham, a small saucepan and wooden spoon for making the Hollandaise sauce. I told her she could toast the English muffins so she could feel she contributed.
I don't want to belabor the outcome, but something must have been wrong with the stove because I scorched the sauce. Burnt Hollandaise does not smell particularly delightful, and while I was opening the windows, the poached eggs got hard-boiled and the ham began to smoke. But, I brightened Phyllis's morning by quipping: "Ah, there's no place like home for the Hollaindaise!" She didn't laugh much. So I piled the pans in the sink and poured a couple bowls of Grape Nuts.
Phyllis generously offered to clean up the kitchen so I could help elsewhere. With breakfast out of the way, I volunteered to do the laundry while Phyllis went to the supermarket. I couldn't find the instruction book on operating the washing machine but decided on my own that if one cup of soap was good, two would be better.
My supposition was not entirely correct. I have never seen a mad dog, but I understand they froth at the mouth. So do "mad" washing machines! I was up to my knees in frothy foam and when Phyllis returned, she found me scooping suds out of the utility room with a snow shovel.
There was a filmy coating of soap on everything. Something went wrong with the wash though. Everything came out a dull pink, including towels, pillow slips, Phyllis's bras and a bright red sweatshirt I'd only worn once.
During the day I helped my appreciative wife with several other tasks and I learned a lot, but I think Phyllis was beginning to feel her security threatened by my efforts to help her. She seemed to plead with me not to invade her bailiwick.
Actually, the way she put it was:
"You have your work and I have mine. Please remove me from your succor list."
So, if that's the way she feels about it, who am I to disturb her as she fulfills her conjugal obligations? I wouldn't want anybody to accuse me of chauvinism.
© 2009 Robert F. Karolevitz