Book Title: The Real Home
The best woman in the world is well described by a wise poet, preacher, philosopher, and king; in fact, he was the wisest man who ever lived. But for all that, he showed a lack of good sense by marrying seven hundred wives. No wonder this king exclaimed, “Behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit”!
Yet this preacher declared, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
It was God Himself who said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him,” one fitted to stand by him as his companion and helper. Not many helpers, but one. The two were to keep close together instead of living apart. “In both the Old and the New Testament, the marriage relation is employed to represent the tender and sacred union that exists between Christ and His people.”
Solomon describes this best and most charming woman in the last chapter of Proverbs. He does not encourage us to believe there are many such; he intimates that she is rarely found. But the man who finds her secures a prize more precious than rubies. “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.”
This worthy woman described by Solomon is married. Not all of the most charming women have husbands. It may be there are not enough good men to claim them. Sacrifice for others causes some to remain single; or a quiet grave may hide the love that never came to fruition. Billy Sunday is credited with saying that there are no “old maids” any more; they are “ladies in waiting.” Such ladies deserve all the respect and pleasure a more enlightened age has for them.
THE CLINGING VINE
The wife is sometimes compared to a clinging vine and the husband to the towering oak. But there is a difference in vines. Some make the tree to which they cling beautiful, and crown it with glory, while others sap its vitality and cling until death leaves only a lifeless trunk, which soon decays.
But while the gracious wife may cling, she does something else. She “worketh willingly with her hands;” she does not think them too fine for household tasks. She is willing to do more than “boss the job.” She herself works. She is not lazy. She did not marry to get somebody to support her. If material is not at hand, she seeks for it. Her home hums with activity from morning till night. W
When a young man faces a girl’s father and asks for his daughter, one of the questions is likely to be, “Can you provide a comfortable support for my daughter?” Why would it not be as appropriate for the mother of the young man to visit the young woman’s mother and inquire, “Has your daughter been taught to cook and to do housework? Can she make a pleasant home for my son?”
One of the governors of Kansas told his daughter than when she could make a loaf of bread as good as her grandmother provided, he would give her a check for one hundred dollars. Lenore soon found it very necessary to visit grandmother. What occurred during her stay, we are not told; but in a few weeks she presented her admiring father with a choice loaf of her own baking, and demanded her check.
WHY HE MARRIED HER
Mr. Armour of Chicago married a woman who was an excellent housekeeper; and when questioned as to his reason for selecting her, while others more wealthy than she would have been proud to bear his name, he replied:
“I did not feel especially interested in this young lady, though we were good friends, till one evening her father gave a dinner to a lot of men. I was invited, and learned that the cook had left unexpectedly, and that the delicious dinner was prepared and served under the supervision of his daughter. I found my way to the kitchen after a while and I don’t think she ever looked prettier than she did in a big gingham apron, her cheeks pink with excitement, and dab of flour on her nose; and she was making dishes step about as if by magic. That settled it for me. I decided that what I needed was somebody who took an interest in her home instead of being a mere butterfly.”
There is real pleasure in doing housework and in doing it well. It is not drudgery. Homemaking in all its details I fascinating. It calls for intelligence and culture. Ruskin says:
“You must be either housewife or housemoth. Remember that in the deep sense you must weave men’s fortunes and embroider them, or feed upon them and bring them to decay.
“Wherever a true wife comes, home is around her. The stars may be the canopy over her head, the glowworm in the night-cold grass be the fire at her feet; but home is where she is, and for a noble woman, stretches far around her, better than houses ceiled with cedar or painted with vermilion, shedding its quiet light for those who else were homeless.”
Labor is ennobling. To do the common things of life “as unto the Lord,” glorifies them and lifts the thoughts to a higher plane.
“Not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” is the ideal wife’s motto. Names are not lacking among the most cultured women who found their pleasure in household tasks. Queen Victoria was an excellent housekeeper. Queen Wilhelmina of Holland took charge of her mother’s household when she was sixteen. Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Taft were famous cooks. Mrs. Cleveland-Preston, when mistress of the White House, often took her guests to the kitchen. Mrs. Bryan was busy on a back porch making blackberry jam instead of entertaining visiting delegates when returns were expected at a time Mr. Bryan was candidate for President. When questioned as to why she was so occupied, she replied, “Whichever way the election goes, Mr. Bryan will enjoy jam on his biscuits.” Disappointment would be less poignant with good jam than without.
There will be trying days for the queen of the household, when the bread burns, a finger is cut, unexpected visitors must be entertained, the children fret, and the homekeeper is hurried, worried and weary. The charming woman will see in these circumstances new opportunities for self-control. She will not let frazzled nerves get the upper hand.
At evening the weary wife will greet her husband with a smile. She may mention some of the tings that have troubled her, but will add, “I’m so glad I have our home and you. Some way my burdens are all gone now that you are here.” The true husband will give his whole heart’s affection to a wife like that.
EXTREMES IN NEATNESS AND ORDER
Some wives may forget the statement in the Sermon on the Mount that the life is more than meat, and the body than raiment. In other words, not only physical life is more precious than food, but the inner, spiritual life must have nourishment. While the body must be clothes and the house kept in order, yet the robe of character developed in the home should receive first attention.
Some housewives are so extremely orderly that husband and children are constantly under restraint. A picture comes to mind of a farmer husband who was also a scholar and a teacher. He was in every way mentally superior to his wife, but he ever refrained from exposing her ignorance, and never revealed his longing for real companionship.
The wife was extremely orderly. Her own mother could not live with her; for, as she said, she could “not exist where some one continually followed her with a mop.” The husband was very helpful. When he brought vegetables from the garden, he would wash and prepare them outside the house, then remove his shoes before entering, lest a particle of dust should be brought inside. But his soul was starved. The perfect order troubled him. The lesson is that while homes should be neat and tidy, still here may be such extreme stiffness and precision that the home spirit is destroyed.
THE “TIE VOTE”
Wives are ready to believe the Bible when it commands the husband to love his wife; but they are not so ready to receive its plain statements that the wife should reverence her husband and submit her will to his.
The submission commanded is the submission of love. Husband and wife should be one, but this ideal condition does not always exist. On some points they can and will differ, and no harm result; on others, when a decision is to be reached, there must be harmony. In legislative bodies, when the house is divided, the speaker may cast his vote and decide the question. On account of the position God has given the husband in the family, his is the privilege of the “tie vote,” and the wife suffers no dishonor when she yields her opinion to his. When to obey the husband does not conflict with obedience to the command of God, she will do well not to determine to have her own way.
The wife may think she loves her husband when she marries him, and she probably does; but love should grow stronger with the years. There is sometimes danger, as children come to the home, that these take the larger share of her love and interest. An Englishwoman says:
“Don’t nauseate your husband by talking baby all the time. As baby’s father, he will stand a good deal of this, but remember there are other interests in the world. Don’t let your husband become merely your children’s father after the arrival of the first baby. You can give him an extra share of love in that capacity, but he will choose to be none the less your husband and chum. The greatest of all mothers is she who manages her responsibilities so that the duty of being a wife is not sacrificed to that of the mother.”
The science of conjugality is most important of all. The wife who chooses “the good part” of her husband, tries to please him; she so identifies her soul with all that is noble and aspiring in him, that he realizes that there is but one in all the world who really understands him. Husband-keeping is a finer art than housekeeping. Some wives are only housekeepers. They are not suns in the domestic solar system. Their husbands become “wandering stars” because they have no orbit in which to move; they rotate at too great a distance; perhaps they fly off at a tangent, and are lost in “the blackness of darkness forever.”
Wives may receive the kindly attentions of their husbands in such an indifferent manner that it kills the desire to be kind. If gratitude is not felt and expressed, the loverlike attitude of the husband is chilled and frozen. He may say nothing,-probably does not,-but the wound is deep and very difficult to heal.
Here is an illustration:
The other night on the street car I overhead a conversation between two men. “Looks like you’d been to the florist,” said the older.
“Yes, I’m taking a bunch of roses to my lady,” proudly returned the other.
“Hm-m! Reminds me of old times. Well, enjoy it while you can, old chap. After you’re married, you won’t do that any more.”
“Won’t do it any more! Well, I guess I will!” hotly answered the youth. “Don’t you think that our getting married is going to keep me from showing little attentions to my wife!”
“But she won’t let you do it, man,” said the other.
“Won’t let me do it! Well, you don’t know her. I should say she will. Nothing she likes better. What are you driving at anyway?”
His friend smiled. “You may not believe it, but I had just as good intentions as you have before we were married, and tried to carry them out. A short time after we were settled in our cozy little home, I passed a florist’s on my way from work one night, and decided to take my wife a bunch of flowers.
“I got the prettiest they had, and paid a corresponding price, too. But, of course, I did not suppose she would ask what they cost; she never did before. Well, I was all excited by the time I reached home, thinking how pleased she would be. She met me at the door, and as I handed her the flowers, what do you suppose she said? ‘You dear boy to remember me’? – Not much! That’s what she used to say, of course. What she did say was, ‘How much did they cost?’ and I, like an idiot, blurted out, ‘Two dollars.’
“‘Two dollars!’ ejaculated my horrified little wife. ‘Oh, my dear! Don’t you realize that we can’t afford such luxuries as that now, with your meager salary?’ And there I was getting bigger wages and living more economically than before we were married. I tell you it almost made me angry. But I recovered, and tried again a few weeks later. That time I thought I’d avoid a luxury and get her something strictly useful. I became possessed of a bright idea: a silk waist – that was just the thing! I remembered a blue waist sh once had that I always liked, so I bought one well-intended silk offering: ‘Oh, my! Isn’t that just like a man? What in the world made you get blue? Don’t you know I can’t wear blue? If you had only given me the money and let me select it myself!’
“That settled me, friend. I didn’t try again. But would you believe it, several weeks later I found her crying as if her heart would break; and what about, do you suppose? ‘I don’t believe you love me any more,’ she wailed. ‘You never bring me home any presents as you used to.’
“I give it up! Women are certainly curious creatures, and I confess I don’t understand them. But I didn’t mean to discourage you friend. Go ahead, and don’t think I am feeling sorry for myself, either. I’m happy enough, and think the world of my wife. But there’s no denying it, they’re different after they’re married; that’s all! Here’s my street. Good-night.”
If wives will use and study the methods which were effectual in winning the good man they call husband, there will be fewer disappointed husbands and unhappy wives.
THE NAGGING, FUSSY WOMAN
Some husbands possess the patience of Job or they could not endure the eternal nagging and fussing they have at home. In public and in private their faults are discussed and the wife assumes the air of one who must train her husband and make him presentable in society. She may be his inferior from every p9oint of view. But he must pay her special attention, must order his conduct according to her rules.
A cheerful, genial man, one of education and broad culture, who was the life of every circle he entered, was seen to be quiet, self-absorbed, unsocial, whenever accompanied by his wife. Frequently she would say, “Benton, don’t do that,” or “Please, Benton, do this for me,” or she would relate to the company some incident in which Benton’s conduct was the subject of criticism. Could she have known the feelings of indignation in the hearts of her auditors while she monopolized the conversation and almost constantly dwelt on some shortcoming of her husband, she would have been amazed.
“PUSHING ON THE LINES”
Other women who are not critical or faultfinding, seem to carry the weight of the universe on their frail shoulders. They are all fire, nerve, and energy. A story is told of how such a woman became a more sensible wife:
Just a year ago it was that I saw her last, until yesterday; a little, thin, nervous, worried-looking woman, with eyes too bright, mouth too set, firm little hands too tightly clasped, going uphill in an old-fashioned wagon, pushing on the lines.
There was a good driven in the front seat, a good steady horse in the shafts, a good smooth road under the wheels, a fine green landscape all around to see; but my friend didn’t see it. She was too busy pushing on the lines.
Up, up, up the long hill climbed the straining wheels. “Gid-dap,” said the driver as he spit contentedly into the splendid gulf of green below the bluff, “Gid-dap.” And the patient, steady old horse “gid-dapped” quietly, calmly, steadily, to the top of the long hill.
At the top my friend leaned back on the cushions, “There!” she said, and sighed in great relief. The driver turned in his seat, and spoke with all the freedom of the Western spirit.
“Tired, ain’t you?” he said.
“Tired?” echoed my friend. “Why, yes, I guess I am.”
“Well, not,” said the driver, soothingly, “you hadn’t ought to be. The old horse, he did all the pulling. I wouldn’t push so hard on the lines when we come to the next hill.”
The woman’s face relaxed, her bright eyes softened a little. “That’s so,” she said, “I believe that’s good advice”; and she waved us a good-humored good-by as she and the driver and the old-fashioned mountain wagon started down the hill.
Yesterday I met my friend for the first time since then. Her back was toward me, and I didn’t know her till she turned.
“What in the world has happed to you?” I said. “You look like a girl again.”
My friend smiled. “I am,” she said, “and yet it is all so simple. I learned it from the driver on the mountain road. I’ve stopped pushing on the lines, that’s all; and you can’t think how much easier the road is to climb.”
Stopped pushing on the lines; that was it.
My friend has a good husband – kind, devoted, successful in a quiet sort of way; not so clever as my friend, not so ambitious, not so full of energy, but the man of the family without a doubt. I have often wondered if her constant pushing and prodding and reminding and spurring didn’t get on her nerves. My friend told me about it.
“You know Joe as well as I do,” she said. “Poor fellow, he’s had a time of it with me. I was always ‘pushing on the lines,’ and thought I was helping; and all the time, it didn’t do a thing but make me tired before we got to the top of the hill.
“Joe never hurries; he never goes into things with his heart and soul; he does the best he can, and lets it go at that.
“It used fairly to kill me to get him off to the office. I wanted him to hurry. I wanted him to get to work. I wanted him to do things, and hustle. And he never would; he couldn’t. He had just so much strength, just so much energy, and just such a hill to climb, and all the pushing I did didn’t make a particle of difference to him or to me or to the load.
“I worried, and fretted, and nagged, and was irritated, ‘pushing on the lines’ all the way, and we didn’t get to the top a bit quicker for al my pushing.
“Suddenly last year, when the driver told that about the lines, it all was clear to me, and I‘ve never done it since – not once.
“When I feel like hurrying Joe, when I wish he’d to something quicker than he does, or put more life into the doing of it, I just lean back, and untie my face, and say to myself, ‘Don’t push on the lines,’ and it’s all right.
“I’m ten years younger, and so is Joe. I take time to enjoy things. I don’t worry over what I can’t help; and in the long run, I guess we get over the road about as well as we did before, if not a good deal better.”
Don’t push on the lines. I wish every woman who nags would learn that lesson. She needs it, and so does her husband. – Annie Laurie
IMPATIENCE AND ANGER
If the husband, in a thoughtless moment, has hurt his wife’s sensitive feelings, the longer she thinks about it, the more it will hurt and smart. If she rests on one of the precious promises spoken for time of perplexity and distress, if she goes out in the fresh air a little while, thinks persistently of something pleasant, her troubles will not be half so hard to bear.
The wife who would retain her husband’s affection will guard her “moods and tenses.” Some wives are naturally sunny and cheerful. They see the bright instead of the dark side. Those with such a disposition are greatly favored.
Others see the sadness, the dark clouds; nothing is just right. And so they chafe and complain, scold and find fault, until in desperation, the husband betakes himself to the street – anywhere – to escape the poisonous atmosphere of his own home.
Unkindness, complaining, and anger cause good angels to depart. No one can afford to let a hasty temper, a sullen mood, and tense feelings ruin the life. The woman who is thus afflicted should not become a wife until she has become master of her disposition, and can speak and act calmly under annoying circumstances.
Nothing else adds to the joy of home as does a sunny temper, a heart at peace though all is disturbing without. Nothing else clouds the atmosphere like a gloomy, faultfinding, teasing disposition. A wife who is severe, complaining, and hard to please will spoil any home.
She says she is “nervous.” Some people think she is cross. Words of complaint, faultfinding, and censure make the husband desperate, the children hard and rebellious. Thunder storms clear the atmosphere out of doors, but they have an opposite effect in the home. Jesus expelled demons, even the “dumb spirit,” from those afflicted. He is needed now to cast devils from those possessed, and to bring peace where before were unrest and wrangling.
Another demon, worse than that of the thunder-storm variety, is one found in the person who pouts, sulks, and poses as the afflicted one, wrapped in a mantle of gloom. This spirit is present when some word causing offense is spoken, or when something is done that displeases. Probably those who manifest this disposition were coaxed and petted when children; mistaken friends tried to persuade them that no offense was meant, and after a time they were pacified. This demon can be overcome only through the grace of Christ.
A wife or mother who goes about with an injured air, answers all questions with “Yes” or “No,” says it is no matter what becomes of her, that nobody loves her, depresses the whole household. Such a person is indeed possessed by an evil spirit. A woman of weak character sometimes poses as a martyr when she cannot do as she pleases. Such women act like spoiled children. They drag down their husbands; they are unfit to be mothers.
A few moments apart with the Savior will often restore the needed poise; but if one seems to be sinking under the pressure of care, weariness, worry, or irritability, let her send the hurry call, “Lord, save me.” For the sake of husband and children, for the sake of her own soul, she should never give up until this evil disposition is conquered.
After an explosion in a coal mine, in which many were killed, a young wife was seen sitting by her husband’s dead body. She looked at him, but shed no tears. She rocked to and fro, her face white with anguish.
“Oh that I had spoken fair to him at the end!” she moaned. “Oh that he would come to life one minute, that I could say, ‘Jimmie, forgive me’! Nothing can help me now! I could bear it if I’d spoke fair to him at the end.”
At last the story came out. They had been married a year, she and Jim, and both had tempers; but Jim was always first to make up. And this very morning they had had trouble. It began because breakfast was not ready and the fire wouldn’t burn. But had said hard words. But at the very last, though the breakfast had not been fit to eat, Jim had turned at the door, and said: “Give me a kiss, lass. You know you love me, and we won’t part in ill blood.”
“No Jimmie, I don’t love you!” she said petulantly.
“Give me one kiss, lass,” pleaded Jimmie.
“No, not one!”
“And now –“ Then the tears rushed to her eyes. With awful sobs, she flung her arms around the corpse.
“Dear Jimmie, speak to me now!” she moaned. “Say you forgive me.”
“Do not grieve so hopelessly,” some one said, trying to comfort her. But the mourner’s ears were deaf to all comfort, and the wailing cry came again and again: “Oh, if I had only spoke fair to him at the end!”
The wife who has a cheerful, sunny heart is a treasure. She is charming at home or wherever she may go. She looks good and is good.
The happy woman is not envious. She holds no grudge against any one. Life is too short, she thinks, to waste in thinking, speaking, or acting unkindly. So she smiles a welcome to the one who shares her seat in the pew or on the street car. She holds the door open for the one following her. Her thoughts are for others, not for self. It is selfishness that gives rise to grouches and brings unhappiness; it is selfishness that squeezes all the joy out of life.
The one who keeps sweet, cares more for others than for self. Every one is in the worlds to befriend his fellows, to give courage, strength, and glimpses of the life beyond to those who grow weak and weary in the battle.
It is said of a woman who had experienced great sorrow, that she decided she would not let it depress and discourage her. She resolved to smile, and several times a day she would laugh heartily whether she felt like it or not. She overcame her gloom and sadness, and became a blessing those about her.
PRAYING FOR HER HUSBAND
One of the greatest privileges of the faithful wife is to pray for her husband. Many men have been saved because their wives have prayed until their prayers were answered.
Men have great temptations to meet in the world. It holds a man steady to know that at home a wife who lives her religion is pleading for God’s blessing upon him while he is absent. He may not speak his appreciation or give token of a change of heart; but notwithstanding he seeming indifference, he is glad he has a true friend who prays.
Life is too short for a wife to be anything but the best companion possible to her husband. The day of separation comes all too soon. Happy will she be if she has been true to her trust. Beside an open grave she will never grieve that she has been loving and forgiving.