[Sylvie, a drifter, has been called back to civilization to take care of her deceased sister’s two young daughters. Taking note of Sylvie’s unorthodox approach to housekeeping and mothering, the town authorities are closing in to take public custody of the one daughter, speaking here, who seems to be choosing Sylvie’s way of life.]
… [N]either Sylvie nor I had any thought at all of inviting neighbors in. The parlor was full of the newspapers and magazines Sylvie brought home. They were stacked pretty neatly, considering that some of them had been rolled, perhaps to swat flies. Nevertheless, they took up the end of the room where the fireplace had been. Then there were the cans stacked along the wall opposite the couch. Like the newspapers, they were stacked to the ceiling. Nevertheless, they took up considerable floor space. Of course, we could have made other arrangements, if we had planned to entertain, but we did not. The visitors glanced at the cans and papers as if they thought Sylvie must consider such things appropriate to a parlor. That was ridiculous. We had simply ceased to consider that room a parlor, since, until we had attracted the attention of these ladies, no one ever came to call. Who would think of dusting or sweeping the cobwebs down in a room used for the storage of cans and newspapers – things utterly without value? Sylvie only kept them, I think, because she considered accumulation to be the essence of housekeeping, and because she considered the hoarding of worthless things to be proof of a particularly scrupulous thrift.
Housekeeping. Copyright © 1980 by Marilynne Robinson