"Your body is the first thing any child of man ever wanted. Therefore dispose yourself to be loved, to be wanted, to be available. Be there for them with a vengeance. Be a gracious, bending woman. Incline your ear, your heart, your hands to them.... To be a Mother is to be the sacrament - the effective symbol - of place. Mothers do not make homes, they are our home." from Bed and Board, Robert Farrar Capon

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Just Because I Love "Bed and Board"

"What can be said of [mothers] is that while they do fulfill their functions, they are increasingly 
tempted to do so for the wrong reason.  They are led, subtly but surely, to look on the mothering they 
do as a mere necessity - even a penance - and they live as if they were reserving their real enthusiasm for something else, usually unspecified.   They list themselves apologetically as "only a mother"; and they accumulate endless labor-saving devices, in order to conserve themselves for some other or better role than motherhood.  The labor-saving devices, of course, are a trap.  More often than not,  they simply make more work; and what time they do save is usually devoured by the car and the TV.   But occasionally the other role does materialize.  

Women go to work: sometimes simply to find fulfillment, sometimes on the basis of necessity:
but often only to get more money to buy more devices to spare themselves for more work.  
Yet in few cases do they work at anything worth saving themselves for.  They plow through their motherly functions every day - most of them do fabulously well; they area remarkable breed - 
but then they escape for fulfillment to some bit of ten-to-four clerking or six-to-twelve piecework 
that is less fulfilling than making instant chocolate pudding.  The really dreadful part of it all the wear and tear; for by definition, and by choice, they are not substituting one function for another, but acting two roles on the strength of only one small heart.  It's beginning to sound like one of the usual pleas to send women back to Kinder, Kuche, and Kirche.   But not quite.  There is a principle.

A man playing "Life with Father" at his own table is ludicrous: a woman kneading bread is still lovely.  In the case of motherhood there is a great deal to be said for trying on the old hats first.  
They might look funny, and it's a woman's right not to wear them; but she should at least try them on - and work them over for a while.  A few snips here and a bit of ribbon there, and some of them can be as stunning as ever.

Don't burn the kneading trough yet... remember you are a landmark.  You are and remain the bodily link with our origin.  You are the oldest thing in the world; don't be in a hurry to forget any of your history.

You are not only a link with something.  You are the thing itself; and you are the sacrament, the instrument, by which we learn to love the things that are.  Your body is the first object any child of man ever wanted.  Therefore dispose yourself to be loved, to be wanted, to be available.  Be there for them with a vengeance. Be a gracious, bending woman. 
Incline your ear, your heart, your hands to them. Be found warm and comfortable, and disposed
to affection. Be ready to be done by and to welcome their casual effusions with something better than preoccupation and indifference.   It isn't a matter of how much time; only how much intensity."

From Bed and Board, by Robert Farrar Capon


  1. Wonderful quotes Leah, thanks for sharing these. I'm curious about where you got your copy of this book. I'd love to read it but looks like all copies are pretty spendy, worth it though probably!

    1. I've got an extra copy lying around here. It must be meant for you! Email me over your address and I'll send it to you. :)

      mothersarehome at comcast dot net

    2. Aubri, I'll pay for shipping for you to let me borrow it (probably cheaper than meeting halfway in MN). Not sure about the copyrights, but someone should make this an ebook, or put it on google books.

      (And we haven't eaten up all the apple butter. Hopefully I can get you some before Christmas)

    3. Katy, I've always loved the idea of a "Good Mama Books" Interlibrary loan program, we should do that! And mmm, apple butter....you know the sooner you send it would mean the sooner I'd have to get around to making biscuits for it....:)

    4. Did someone mention apple butter? ;P

    5. Yeah, not gonna be by Christmas. Leah, I'll send you some next year, if I get free apples like I did this year :) USPS needs a better "apple butter and jelly" rate. Think I can get them to think it's a book?

    6. Wait, when are we all having biscuits with Apple butter? Yum!

  2. I love the last paragraph of your post - It's so easy to be "preoccupied" with whatever task I'm doing and not be "disposed to affection" I should re-read this book.

  3. Thank you for the reminder to be in the moment, for and with my children and husband.

    I have been enjoying trying on some of the old hats - Kneading our bread with my little helpers.

  4. I am coveting this book! Do you know it's $50 on Amazon??? It's been on my wish list for a long time thanks to you all :)

    I love this quote, and the one above, thank you so much! Such wonderful images to take with me into my day....

  5. Katy and Emily - I wish I had more extra copies so I could send you each one as well!

    But you'll all be glad to know that I have reason to believe that Bed and Board may possibly be republished both in paper and ebook form by the end of 2014. Wouldn't that be great! I'll let you know when I have more news to tell. :)

  6. I can never get enough of Bed and Board!