Choices, circumstances, and the general vagaries of life have led me to my current occupation, the title of which seems to change according to time or point of view. What I would have called a “housewife” growing up, is now, for the most part, a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), but other terms I’ve heard used include domestic engineer (blah), domestic diva (ick), or homemaker (eh). In any case, the job comes with no pay or social security benefits, lots of judgement and guilt, and repetitive tasks. Of course I’m very lucky to be able to stay at home and rely on someone else’s income. It’s a privilege to be available to help at my sons’ schools, take them to their appointments, and field the emotional crises that their needs dictate. It is wonderful to be able to adapt my schedule for my husband’s honestly difficult and stressful job. My troubles are that of a middle-class white woman living in America, which renders them the least troublesome of all troubles in most of the rest of the world. I am intelligent enough and unselfish enough to see that. But sometimes I do want more. Not more things. Just more. And it’s out there.
Collecting the Monocacy’s trash and writing this blog is part of the more. What’s ironic, however, is how much the task can resemble my occupation. After all, what am I doing, really, but cleaning up after people? Usually the debris is so random and spread apart that the cleaning is rendered impersonal and therefore can assume an abstract expression of environmentalism. There are times, though, when I just feel like some stranger’s beleaguered mother. There is, for instance, an area on the “island” that a group of people use for a campfire every weekend. When I’m doing my rounds on Sunday or Monday, I find, in addition to their ashes (which are dangerously close to a massive pile of dried wood, leaves and other kindling-like materials), beer cans, food wrappers, and miscellaneous garbage. A photo collage would do the scene justice:
In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a silly putty egg. There was a deodorant cap, too, for the person who, I suppose, while sucking down his beer, noticed his pits stank.
But I’m not judging. Oh, well, of course I am. And isn’t that where this problem started? I feel judged and so I judge, and we’re all a little more unhappy even though we imagine we’re the opposite? There are days when I feel tremendous joy and gratitude, when I understand how very lucky I am. And then there are days when I feel as if I’ll never get to the top of the trash heap (or is it the bottom? I’ve gotten lost in this metaphor). Either way, I’m here, and so is the trash. And so is the river.