The Kitchen Maid in SWANN’S WAY

Temperature is down to the 30s tonight in Redwood City. Cold exacerbates the ache in self’s neck; this evening self feels quite ill, feverish even. She’s had to cancel a long-overdue appointment for a trim because she doesn’t feel like walking out of the house dressed in parka and furry boots. Son, in the meantime, went out to test ride his dad’s bike (He fixed it; that, he says, will be his Christmas present for hubby, since he happens to be very short of cash: Self was right, he does have a girlfriend!)

The jello concoction that’s taken up all son’s energies the past three days came to magnificent fruition this afternoon, so while self was watching The Painted Veil and shedding copious tears over Edward Norton’s exquisite death scene, son was in the kitchen, running to and fro between refrigerator and sink, opening and closing cabinet doors etc — looking, he said, for just the right tupperware container for some huge thing he was making, and then he slammed something into the fridge and went out on his dad’s bike, and when self took a peek in the fridge, she saw a red jello volcano, dripping over all the shelves. Encased in the middle of this quivering red mass was a gift wrapped in plastic. Hmm, self thinks that if some boyfriend of hers presented her with such, she would be reluctant to take it into the house and show her Dearest Mum, as Mum might pronounce boyfriend a @##!!

Anyhoo, it was quite fun, though, having all this activity in the kitchen, and son would come out every now and then when self would say, “Listen to this scene! It’s really great!” And so he got to watch about 3/4 of The Painted Veil, and he even agreed with self at the end that Naomi’s son looked a lot more like Ed Norton than like Liev Schreiber.

So now self comes to the main point of this blog — apologies, dear blog reader, for being so digressive — which is to quote a passage from Swann’s Way which concerns a kitchen maid. Self loves the way Proust writes about his family’s servants, for he gives them such humanity. The other day, while self was entertaining herself by perusing a couple of blogs from the Philippines, she was amused to read several short stories that involved protagonists being awakened by maids and having to rush to school. Ah, those were the days! But the maids who were waking up these sleepyhead colegialas were pretty much nameless and faceless, in contrast to the following maiden immortalized by Proust:

The year we ate so much asparagus, the kitchen maid usually given the job of “scraping” them was a poor, sickly creature, in a state of pregnancy already rather advanced when we arrived at Easter, and we were in fact surprised that Francoise allowed her to do so many errands and so much heavy work, for she was beginning to have difficulty carrying before her the mysterious basket, rounder every day, whose magnificent form one could divine under her ample smocks. These smocks reminded me of the the cloaks worn by certain of Giotto’s symbolic figures, photographs of whom I had been given by M. Swann. He himself was the one who had pointed this out to us and when he asked for news of the kitchen maid he would say: “How is Giotto’s Charity?” What was more, she herself, poor girl, fattened by her pregnancy even in her face, even in her cheeks, which descended straight and square, rather resembled, in fact, those strong, mannish virgins, matrons really, in whom the virtues are personified in the Arena.

(And, as Proust’s paragraph about the kitchen maid goes on for almost an entire page, self thinks she will stop here and give her aching fingers a rest. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.)

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