Three Kid Circus : M Is For Martha

Monday, September 06, 2004

M Is For Martha

Take off those white shoes, and pull out your organizer. Fall looms ahead, and we must make a plan of attack.

It's been years since I let my subscription to Martha Stewart Living lapse. I still miss it. She always had that calendar in the front of the magazine that detailed the exciting chores that she would undertake in the coming month. The 16th? Bake 15 pies and polish silver. The 25th? Call Chimney Sweep. The 3rd, yes, let's see... aha! We must organize all of our greeting cards for the upcoming year. Bonus points if they are handmade.

When Labor Day rolls around, I feel a thrill of panic. Shouldn't I be canning something? Making homemade potpourri or decoupaging a gift for each child in my daughter's grade? Shouldn't I be recaulking the windows and airing out the winter clothes? I know I should be knitting RIGHT NOW.

I met my husband at work, began dating him within a month, moved in with him two months later, and got fired (for dating him) about a month after that. All things considered, I was delighted to be unemployed, since I had been supporting myself for a number of years with little time off. I had also recently received a portion of a class action settlement, and was feeling free and easy.

I would rise to see the boyfriend off to work, and then I would watch Martha Stewart on the television. Oh, how I loved Martha. She had clever ideas, specially designed closets with built in sewing machines, an archival system for table linens, service for 500 in 50 different patterns. She used raffia and pipe cleaners and made art.

A dear friend and I would compare notes. We plotted domestic strategy. We met for coffee and talked about putting up vegetables and making herbal soaps. We peppered our conversations with "Its a good thing." She and I had both moved in with our respective boyfriends at the same time. We decided that we would marry said boyfriends (we did), have their children (did that too) and embrace the picket fence, meatloafs and gingham aprons. Seven years have passed since those dreamy mornings spent planning our what-ifs.

Over time, I developed a scorn for Martha. But it was misplaced. Martha parlayed all those domestic things that I imagine they try to teach in Home Economics into hard cold cash. She made otherwise sane women lust after $20 cookie cutters and shop at Kmart to bask in the glow of Martha approved products. Actually, from the looks of her ads, she actually designed, sewed, packaged and drove the truck to Kmart herself. There she was, gleaming in her blue workshirt, a beacon of hope and womanly glory.

I threw myself into Martha's Way with vigor. My friend pointed out that Martha has "staff" who assist, including generating many of the ideas that Martha would demonstrate on TV and in her magazines. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with staff, and I'm all about big ideas, and less about cleaning up after myself. So when I discovered that running a household wasn't all arts and crafts, and perfectly organized laundry rooms, I was disappointed. And I took it out on Martha Stewart.

My Martha scorn started to snowball on her first Martha Stewart Baby issue. Her essay in the back revealed that she had a delightful pregnancy, and continued to model swimsuits into her fifth month. Oh, it was so good to be young, pregnant and Martha. I was a little irritated. Of COURSE Martha would be delightful while pregnant.

That sent me off into spiral of jealousy. Her daughter surely grew up with sandwiches made from Martha's own jam and freshly ground peanuts, on organic bread made from wheat that Martha sowed and reaped herself. Martha surely provided a stimulating, enriching home environment, full of laughter and joy.

Of course, my snarky little heart was pleased to learn that Martha had planted two majestic rows of trees shortly after her daughter's birth, so that she may traipse under their shade on her wedding day. Martha's daughter opted for a big city civil ceremony in a grey pantsuit, and Martha, wedding guru, cut the trees down in a fit of rage.

So Our Martha is not perfect, but I've grown to enjoy that, too. I can't possibly be Martha-riffic, not really. No staff here, right? So it's not my fault that my housekeeping and cooking and everything lacks that final touch, the shot of glitter, not entirely anyway. And with all Martha's troubles, she is likeable. Go forth and decoupage, Martha.