Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yes. We Can Do It

During the Second World War, in the midst of the ongoing economic fallout of the Great Depression and the horror of tyranny spreading across Europe, women returned to work in record numbers. Rosie the Riveter became the symbol of American feminine ingenuity. Over six million women helped build necessary war machines like planes, bombs, tanks and other weapons. Others drove streetcars and operated heavy machinery or worked in lumber mills and steel mills. Some even unloaded freight. No job too big. Or too tough.

So it is in the spirit of Rosie, in the midst of what the President has called the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I have decided it is time to knuckle down and get to work. A number of months ago, we cancelled our last remaining luxury--the gardeners. And since both of our kids are away at school, I took over the responsibility for the lawns and the weeding and helping my husband with the pruning.

And I love it.

Despite the warnings of the pundits that illegal immigrants are needed to fill the jobs no one else will do, I found taking responsibility for my garden and the cleaning of my home to be... well, a liberating experience. I enjoy my yard and my home in ways I never did before. I understand my decision is not for everyone. During my thirties when the kids were little and I was red-eyeing to New York each week, I had twice weekly cleaning, a cook and gardeners. I couldn't find my way around my own kitchen, let alone the linen closet or the laundry room. I had no choice but to have help. There was not enough time in the day.

But now my kids are gone. I am a college professor and a writer. Though I am still short on time, I have more than I used to and I love the feel of the dirt, the smell of the grass, the exertion of weeding and mowing, the satisfaction of surveying my work. But mostly I love the knowledge that I can do what needs to be done. That I am independent and somewhat self sufficient. That I am not hostage to a myth.

Yes, I can do it. And when the kids come home for the summer and Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, I make sure they help in the yard and split and stack the wood and have the supreme pleasure of accomplishment and the sweet satisfaction of knowing that they can do anything they put their minds to.

Just like Rosie. And the millions of Americans who have made this the greatest country in history through sweat and determination and plain, old-fashioned hard work.

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