In 1936, my grandmother Evelyn graduated from Cornell University with a degree in home economics. She learned many tricks of the “being alive” trade. Her parents allowed her a college education in order to find a “good family” to marry into. Ha! The joke was on them! She found my grandfather Ronald, a poor mechanical engineering student, and she brought all that accumulated home business knowledge (for a would-be millionaire) to a modest little paradise in the small town where my parents and then I was born. She was an expert canner and knew how to skin and cook squirrel. Ronald took a steady job with the state highway department, played on his tractor, and in the autumn, helped fill Grandma’s root cellar (the basement) with enough potatoes to feed a family of four until June.
Last year I became a grandfather. I have an honorary degree in home economics. I think my grandmother would be proud. Long ago when I was still in high school, she predicted that I would become either a restaurant chef or a philosopher. I got close to both, but never achieved full status in either profession. After my grandmother died, some time between acting chef and philosopher, I tacked on painting as probable bread-winning pursuit.
I am just a non-credentialed stay-at-home husband and father. I will continue to paint, and cook, and think about ways and means to the good life. And in spring, once again, notice that near-constant wiggling of my toes and pressing urge to clear out the winter, clean up the nest, and find self-worth in a world that has for the most part abandoned post-secondary degrees for the family-raising arts. I found my bread-winner and built a modest little paradise without the back-slapping congratulations from a broken society uninterested in an able-bodied man (or woman) taking up where his or her grandmother left off.
I refuse to barbeque the local squirrels. But I do make tortillas from scratch and grow my own garlic.