The Self Employed Housewife - A Seaman's Wife's story Ch 4
The Self Employed Housewife
Making up in bed had lightened her mood
She was wide awake when she heard them whispering on the upstairs landing and crept out of bed to avoid another love making session that he never seemed to get enough of.
They had left biscuits in the kid’s bedroom last night so they would not burst into their bedroom the next morning the moment they woke up.
That rule Sascia still remembered from Australia, but Jeroen didn’t.
She quietly told them to go and play downstairs with the toys Jan had bought them in Mozambique, before they could burst into their bedroom and wake Jan up.
After showering she checked how they were doing on their own downstairs.
It was still early, before breakfast.
Seeing them playing and Jeroen looking up every now and then to see if daddy would come down, made her heart soft and mellow. She was going to make them an extensive breakfast with eggs and bacon on toast, coffee & juice just like Jan had been getting on the ship and for the kids their favourite dipping ‘soldiers’ with a soft boiled egg.
Her childhood memories
She and her sister would often be excited knowing that their dad would always have presents for them after he had been away at sea for many months. Sascia and Jeroen did not yet have that repeated experience. Would she want that for them?
She could still hear her mom telling her and her sister long ago:
“When daddy proposed to me, he was already a Captain of his own ship. He warned me that he would never have a job on land. He would not be home if I might have a need of him.“
She was a real romantic at heart and fairytales were real, so she had asked:
“Why did daddy want to marry you?”
“He told me that he wanted to take care of me, but he warned me that we would often be apart. He added “If you can handle that, please marry me.”
In her heart she knew that Jan had never planned to go back to sea after they lived in Australia for four years. He loved working in his garden there and tried to find a job ashore, but that never happened. Instead he ended up becoming a painter of new houses. He hated working for himself and would often keep looking for a job he was more qualified for, but having an officer’s diploma with navigation experiences had not prepared him for a job on land. After four years of trying he wanted to return to Holland.
She had always idolized her parent’s marriage.
Her parents were no longer young when they got married. Dad was already forty two and mommy thirty nine, but for her their marriage was like a romantic fairytale when she was a child. It was years later, after they had visited them in Australia for three months, that she learned the truth about their relationship.
Dad had just retired after being given a gold watch for his forty years of service to the same shipping company, and now he was home for good. Mom could not handle that. She was used to her freedom and so the two were always bickering. Jan had often laughed about it, but she had been quite shocked.
Jeroen had been piling Lego into his new truck while Sascia’s first Negro doll was dressed in the clothes from her favourite doll that her aunt had given her, just before they had passed through the checkpoint in Schiphol on the way to South Africa. No apartheid there, she smiled.
She was laying the table when she heard that Jan was up and about.
“Leave daddy alone for a few minutes you two. Wait until he is downstairs. Come wash your hands before breakfast.”
How was she going to get through the next 8 weeks
Thinking back now, she remembered that her mom warned her not to marry a seaman. Had her mom felt the loneliness she was now experiencing, especially the first weeks of living in this complex with hardly any facilities she had been used to, like a car!
“I can smell the coffee and eggs. Gosh I’m hungry.”
When they were all seated, Jan was peering at the leather belts she had arranged over the balustrade – all in the order of size.
“Can I help you with those belts?”
She looked up in surprise.
“Really, you want to?”
“Well if you want to buy a car, you had better earn some money. If you show me what I can do, maybe we can speed up the order, and some of the money will cover the payment.”
She jumped up from her chair to give him a great big hug. Now she wondered if that Beetle was still available. In a week Jan would be back at sea, and to be without a car for another eight weeks was intolerable.
“Can we all walk to Malvern after breakfast and phone to see if the Beetle is still for sale?”
Jan shook his head. Instead he wanted her to show him what needed to be done and what he could do. She now wished she never told him about the belt order. It felt like he was using it as an excuse not to buy a car, saying that she needed to first earn the money. Her mood was sinking into her shoes. She showed him how to stamp the belts with the few tools she had used on the handbags. Jeroen was keen to help, but he was more in the way than helpful.
Was this what marriage was all about? The woman would always have to be subservient, like some women she knew.
Bad news travels fast
Introducing Jan to the friends she had made in his absence was very much on her list of things to do. Showing off her rather tall and slim husband, so that the men in the complex would know she was not available was even more important. She hadn’t told him about the groping neighbor on the right, since she had no idea how he would react.
“Hey I forgot to tell you that our neighbors on the left are Dutch. He works on a fishing boat. “
Jan was sitting on the one bar-stool she had purchased from a second hand shop. It was just the right height in front of the workbench she had erected in the garage. She could either stand to work at her workbench, or sit down. Jan had a glass of red wine perched precariously on his left while punching patterns into damp belts and smoking his pipe.
“Oh, where are they now?”
“No idea. I only see Debbie and the two boys when he has gone fishing. Otherwise they are always out. They bought a Mini. Brand new.”
“Mmm, fishing must pay well.”
Jan’s reply made her sad. He stayed with the children while she went on her own to the phone booth to find out about the Beetle she had hoped to buy, but it had gone. The woman was very nice and told her to phone back just in case the new owners changed their minds. There were no other cars for sale in the paper for the same price, so she lost hope that she would get it.
When she returned Jan was unaware of how disappointed she was and how much she had wanted transport before he left. Instead he shared some vague rumors that were doing the rounds on the tanker. There must have been someone who lived in Palm Springs and knew she was Jan’s wife. His rather sarcastic tone when talking about slanderous rumors had taken her by such a surprise. She wondered how anyone would know how she spent her evenings?
Looking at him now, working away at her belt order made her even sadder. How could he believe any rumors concerning her. Surely he knows that she would never do anything that would jeopardize their marriage?
How do harmful stories get a life of their own?
There was a hard knock on the closed garage door, more like a rap. They both got a fright.
“Can someone please stop that noise?” a voice shouted.
She ran outside through the side entrance of the courtyard to see who was so angry, and saw a woman in her forties who lived a few doors down pointing at her. Her long dark straggling hair was looking untidy as if she had just fallen out of bed. Connie had spoken about her. Apparently she had already complained to several people in the complex about different issues.
Jan kept hammering away while she was trying to explain that they only worked in the garage during the morning when everybody was at work, or at school. That was not completely true but what else could she say.
“I will have to report this. You are using your garage as an industrial workplace. I’m sure that is against the law.”
“No it’s more like craft work, not really industrial. Would you like to look for yourself?” her next plan was to see if she could befriend the woman.
“Oh no, I heard plenty of stories about what is happening in this garage. I do not want to be part of that. You will hear from my lawyer.”
Both Sascia and Jeroen had stopped playing and had been listening. She was too stunned to reply when the woman turned to walk away. What had she insinuated?
It’s a small world
Now she suspected where the rumors had originated. Who was this woman? How did she know that Jan worked for Unicorn shipping and that she was his wife? She was so stunned but when she had recovered enough to confront the woman, she had already disappeared. Jan could not have heard anything, because he was still hammering away.
- The Self Employed Housewife (Ch 5)
When Jan proposed he was an officer on a coaster. She knew all about that, being a seaman’s daughter herself, so what was the big deal? Was it the loneliness? Making important decisions on her own?