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Wednesday, December 06,1995, 1:36 PM
Stephen Larsen writes:
Ben -- with Kasia's parents here there have been plenty of dishes to do.
Then again there have been more people to do them, so being off my
nightly routine, I was feeling a little out of balance. After dinner
every evening Halina would say, "Ja pozmywam" (I will do the dishes).
But I've learned that getting to the sink first spares us any outright
disagreements over the matter. Which is a relief because Halina helps
cook every night, too. Recently she has discovered an ingeneous, but
labor-intensive method for making a delectable squash soup. Eugeniusz
is having a difficult time knowing how to fit into the domestic
routine, since he has been known to say, and perhaps himself believes,
that men are excluded by their gender from kitchen work. I have
suggested that he said this with regard not to himself but to male
guests in his own house, who, by the rather strict standards of Polish
hospitality, should never be allowed to do the dishes -- not because
they are men but because all guests in Poland are sacred. Traditional
hosts have sometimes to resort to extreme statements in order to
dissuade less traditional guests from transgressing their sacral duties
of quiescence and repose. Then again one of his first days here
Eugeniusz offered to paint the house. We are continually discovering
that the handling of domestic duties is far more complicated than the
simple issue of generosity it might seem to be. It demands care,
guesswork, and a hefty portion of gestural communication. At least the
photograph will be a relatively simple matter. Yours, Steve.
Tuesday, December 19,1995, 11:59 AM
Ben Kinmont answers:
how wonderful to hear from you. yes, the ins and outs of domestic
decisions are never as easy as they seem; if fact, they almost
dwarf the decisions of a pedestal or an action.
anyway, i'm glad to hear that you're holding up under the strain
of polish in-laws. i can imagine that it is both a "discovery" and
a lesson in patience. it is wonderful that you and kasia have
the time and space to accomodate them.
so far the project has been both eye-opening and a chore. at this
point i am really looking forward to making the photographic pieces
and giving them away. i suppose it has something to do with starving
for some more hands-on activity in this strange exchange; and longing
for the direct interaction too.
anyway, i look forward to speaking with you over the holidays and
a big kiss to kasia and your family in south dakota.