One of my best childhood memories is making my Dad's favorite pie, Lemon Meringue. My mother would take out her Sunbeam Mixmaster, don her apron, and guide me step-by-step through the long process of making a pie. It came naturally for her. But why wouldn't it? She had all the ingredients: a house, a husband, two kids, and a dog. To me, those were the ingredients needed to be a domesticated woman. And once you had those elements and that title, well then anything, from sewing to baking, to juggling an entire household, would come easily, naturally.
When I think of those days in the kitchen, I knew it was love and what it meant to be "a wife.” My Dad's birthday was at the end of every stifling, hot August; when even the dust of the San Joaquin Valley poofs up to complain about the dry heat. My mom, who is known to complain, "it's too hot," in 69 degree weather, would wipe away the sweat pouring from her face to keep her glasses from slipping off. But during this, she never complained. We had a mission: make the best birthday lemon meringue pie that my father craved and deserved.
By my twenties, I knew I would struggle in society as a woman. I didn't like or want what most women wanted. I had no yearning for a husband and I would hold off on having kids until "later." I had no desire to become a domesticated woman. I dreaded the thought. The idea of maintaining my single-hood only strengthened in my thirties and forties. I was great at being Single, Never Married. It's a box on a questionnaire that I checked, happily. It's not that I was ever feral, but I was definitely independent and I loved it.
Single, but Taken
Then, in August 2015, the city of Memphis called my name. It had plans to adjust my life. I met someone on the corner of Union and Third (see my post, A Love Story). I arrived single, and left knowing I met someone pretty darn wonderful.
A year later he moved in. I fought to be with someone AND to maintain my decisions, my everyday routine, as if I were single. Obviously, that would never work. Boy, was I ever set in my ways, from the smallest of things (like where to keep a garbage can) to the way bigger picture of life (like life goals & retirement). In order for this to succeed, I would have to make adjustments. I was not married, but taken. I was no longer 100% single. Oh Lord, fear enveloped me with every change. Would I have to become a Domesticated Woman?
Domesticated Woman, A Modified Version
The other day I was telling my boyfriend about my lemon meringue memories. A few days later, I looked out my kitchen window and saw that there were seven perfect lemons on our Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree - the first time in six years that it has produced fruit. Was this a sign to make pie? My boyfriend thought I should practice my horrific baking skills by starting with something I knew, the Lemon Meringue. I reminded him, I was under ten years of age the last time I made it, with help! He had ulterior motives. If the house didn't burn down, I could eventually work my way up to his favorite, Key Lime Pie - the kissing cousin to Lemon Meringue. It's true, women are drawn to men that are similar to their Daddy.
I plucked the lemons from our tree and bought pre-made crust. No, I'm not ready to try crust from scratch just yet. I dug out my mixer. No, it's not a $350 KitchenAid Mixer in a fancy color. I am the proud owner of the vintage 1970's Sunbeam Mixmaster, 12-speed, in Harvest Gold color - the very mixer we used to make my Daddy's Lemon Meringue Pie thirty-five plus years ago. My mother gave it to me earlier this year.
Again, baking is not my forté. I stayed focus, a bit nervous. I placed the ingredients on the kitchen island: eggs, yolk & whites separated, flour, and sugar. And in the midst of it, as my ingredients thickened into custard and the pie crust baked, I eased into the baking role. And I felt something more, a feeling I never had before, a bit like a domesticated woman.
I was prepared to resist it. It could not be, I didn't have all the ingredients: the husband, house, kids, and dog. I never would have all the essential ingredients, as I preferred bunnies over dogs, infertility claimed any chance for children, and I'm not demanding my boyfriend to become a husband. So what could this feeling be?
Then I realized that the recipe for domestication is different for everyone. And the extent of domestication is personalized to every individual's comfort level. It was in baking this pie, that I discovered the ingredients that converted me: A Southern Man, sugar, eggs, lemons, and love.
I will never be a perfectly domesticated woman. Later, the same evening after making a perfect pie, I charred the dinner garlic bread to stone. I had the toaster oven set to broil instead of bake. Oops!
But like my mother, I will put that Sunbeam Mixmaster, circa 1970's model, to work. It has 12-speeds for different ingredients, different scenarios, different uses for different outcomes of creating something beautiful. It's true, we become our mothers one way or another.
I will not forfeit my independence in its entirety, that would be deconstruction of my DNA. But, like the Mixmaster and it's twelve levels of speed, I will make adjustments as needed to incorporate whom and what I truly love.