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naked housework, 1962

June 4

 

  Yesterday, Sunday, she had knelt down to try the blocks on Abigail, taking the pins out of her mouth to connect them.  It’s a new summer dress.  Mark made some noises about the capri pants she bought for her -- “those new styles are for older girls” -- so this is her way of making it up to him.


  Now, in the quiet house, she gets to the sewing machine, which she plays like a concert piano.  Her bare foot works the rocking pedal as the new bobbin does its work.  It takes only fifteen minutes to double stitch the twelve blocks together.  Abigail has grown a lot these past few months and Ethel decides to give the old patterns to Mabel Schmitt to use for little Sharon.


  Her next task is the grandfather clock, which has an uneven tick tock again.  Mark bought it for their tenth anniversary, and it’s the centerpiece of the living room and a source of pride, but in truth it’s not of the highest quality.  Ethel has devised a way to adjust it which does not require the tools specified in that manual, and which is better anyway.  She takes the rear panel off, and opens the case in front.  Behind, she reaches inside and down to find the crutch, while pressing her right breast against the side of the case.  It’s not just the tick and tock, but the little sub-ticks that have to be timed.  The manual doesn’t talk about that.  She can feel the subticks through her pressed-in nipple.  Meanwhile she inserts the second toe of her left foot (not the big toe -- that’s too stiff) into the loop at the end of the chain for the chime melody weight (the heavy one) and pulls down.  This retards the sub-tick as she moves the crutch.  She’s never slow-danced (or even danced at all) but it looks like she’s slow-dancing with the clock.  On the third try, she gets the ticking nice and even.


  Now it’s time to iron.  Five shirts for Mark, and three pairs of pants, and three shirts for Sam.  Also Mark’s handkerchiefs.  This iron has a steam setting but she doesn’t use it.  It’s about ten minutes per shirt.  She can go faster but she wants to do a good job and is in no hurry.  Actually she kind of likes ironing.  It gives her time to think, or to listen.  She tunes in on the radio and gets “Chapel of the Air”.  This time it’s Chaplain Price, who usually strikes her as a bit harsh.  Though she agrees with him today.  He’s talking about how all those instructions in Leviticus do not apply to Christians.  For example, it was a transgression to wear clothes made from two different kinds of fibers.  Ethel agrees, that’s a pretty silly rule.

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