"You should see Marie's room," groans her mother. "It's a horror. But it was such a dream room to start. Those pink organdie curtains! And that adorable pink and white rug! And the white wallpaper with the pink rosebuds on it. The most girly-girl room I ever saw! At least it was. But now it's not pink and white. It's one solid gray smudge. And to think of the hours I put into decorating it. It's the kind of room I was always mad to have in my teens."
But unfortunately it was not what Marie had been mad to have.
Sandra's mother was wiser. "Your room needs doing over, Sandy. We've got so-and-so much to spend. What would you like to do with it?"
"Oh, Mother." Sandra's dark eyes glistened. "I'd like it real sexy and modern. Green and mole gray with splashes of watermelon. I can just see it. It'll be so becoming to me and my coloring."
And three and five and ten months later, "Don't you love it, Jane?" to a new friend. "Isn't it divine?" to another. "Keep your cruddy hands off my bedcover," to young brother. "Don't you dare track mud in there," to the brother next in line.
Complains Ida's mother, "My girl will never help in the kitchen. You'd think she'd like to give me a hand."
But from Ida, "Why should I? Nothing I do is ever right. 'Drain the lettuce. No, not in that sieve, in this. Mash the potatoes. No, not through the ricer; take the wooden bowl. Be careful now not to set the oven too high. Be sure now not to pour the batter too soon.' . . . I go nuts."
In Milly and Milt's home a different kind of kitchen deal is in operation. "We take different nights, each of us, to get the dinner. Or sometimes we double up," Milly explains the system. "We do the planning and the shopping and the cooking and serving. Whoever's in charge is really in charge, within budgeting limits, of course. On my night last week I tried a Chinese dinner. One of the girls in my social studies class who is Chinese took me down to her father's store and he explained to me just what to get and how to cook things. Milt is less of an experimentalist. We always know that on his night we can count on hot dogs or hamburgers. My mother's good! She surprises us with new things. But it's my father who takes the prize. He's the best! Sometimes he lets me help him and I learn a lot."
It wasn't long after that Milt proposed to his mother that on her day as well as on his he might relieve her by doing the shopping. "It'll save you lots of time, Ma. And I'm learning to watch for bargain ads. So if you give me your order list a few days ahead I think I can cut down some of the expenses for you."
Judd wanted a chance for creativity in the garden outside. He planned and planted a rock garden which he cultivated and added to bit by bit. This did not, however, keep his father
from lending a helping hand. There was no fuming, "It's yours and you take care of it." There was, rather, the willingness to cooperate which engendered return willingness. "You're going to the track meet this Saturday, Judd? Want me to go over your end of the yard while I'm working on mine?"
Creativity in the home need not, however, function only in big, long-term projects. The making of a lamp shade. The baking of a cake. The sewing of a curtain. The tinting of an old, faded bedspread in colors especially mixed to suit one's own mind and eye. Arranging two curving branches in a brass bowl. Singing three songs of one's own gay choice on a foggy evening. Building a tray rack. Setting the table with contrasting mats and napkins instead of the ones that came together. Many things that are little as well as those that are big.
Whether or not a youngster cooperates or enters into creative home activities depends to some extent on his age and interests. As we have seen, there are so many other things to intrigue him, so many other endeavors that consume his hours and his energy. However, his role in the home depends also on his mother's and father's feelings and attitudes.
"My girl won't help," complains Josephine's mother. "And yet she's a better cook than I am. She mends her father's shirts better, too, and can turn his cuffs like an expert . . ." And then, after a thoughtful pause, "A funny thing just crossed my mind. I'm not really pleased. I guess I'm jealous. I want her to understudy me but not to overshadow me. Perhaps she feels my attitude. That may account for her running out."
"My boy won't help!"
A pertinent question here is: Will his dad?
Why should a boy want to help if his father feels that what needs to be done is a woman's job?
In homes where creativity and cooperation exist, certain truths usually pervade the scene. Mother is not the maid of all work. Nor is she the untrusting mistress who must do everything herself to prove it well done. There is no set of rules as to what is conventionally right for old and young or for male and female. The best men can be cooks and the best cooks can be men. Fathers do tend babies. So do older brothers if they can and would like to. Women can till the soil and may want to paint and hammer. Each may bring his own contribution according to his wish and his bent.