This is a somewhat odd entry in my blog. It is also a somewhat odd entry into the world of word invention. As a French teacher, spending more than thirty years of my life on that quest, I have never invented a French word. The question is, “Why am I inventing a German word?” Well, to make a long story short, my wife is a German teacher and my father-in-law spent his career as a German/Spanish teacher with an emphasis on the German. As I have told many people, the Franco-Prussian War has been going on in my house for many years. I have always confided, in a joking way, that I won the war for the Francophiles as all of my sons took French in high school. I have to say that deep down that that is, in fact, a shallow victory as German wasn’t even offered at their high school as a complete program. I also have to say that essentially my wife killed off the program when she was teaching there. That really isn’t true either since she was hired to complete the program for the students who were already enrolled. But yes, I have had a hard time holding my own professionally as my wife’s family is truly not understanding, nor ever has been of the French, the language, or reasons why one would even embark on an education in that area. Many of them would even say that they would never visit France as the French aren’t nice. It doesn’t matter that I have introduced them to a wealth of French people who were unbelievably nice (from my New Trier French exchange). Obviously, I am not in agreement and I publicly apologize for any silliness or narrow-mindedness on their part. My wife tells me that while on the plane to meet me in France (the first time) where I was involved with a group of students, she had great fears about whether or not she would even like Paris. As it turns out, her fears were totally unfounded. She had also told me when we were in grad school (I in French, she in German) that her German professor reminded them that any literate German scholar had to have some basis of knowledge of French literature, culture, and history.
I took a long time to give the background of this entry without even explaining what I am doing. I am coining a new term in German, “Hausherr.” Most people would be acquainted with “Hausfrau” which is literally the housewife. My wife tells me that the word, “Hausherr” doesn’t exist. I googled it to see what might come up. I did get people with the family name of “Hausherr.”
Why am I doing this? At the ripe old age of 59 years, I have returned to my roots. I am, once again, a Hausherr. When my wife and I met in grad school in 1973, we worked as Teaching Assistants, she in German, I in French before completing our masters. We both intended to teach. Teaching in those years was a tough situation in terms of actually finding a job. It is why she showed up in southern Ohio in the first place. Why else would one be in southern Ohio? Anyway, we each sent out well over 500 letters a piece to find a job, mainly focused on northeastern Ohio, where I am from, and the Chicago area, where she was from. Someday I will get into her real roots in southern Wisconsin, but that is another blog entry. As it happened, as it always does with her, she had the job and I did not. Quelle surprise!
Mary Kay has always “fallen into” things without even trying. It is frightfully amazing how it happens, and it happens all of the time. It is somewhat akin to her strategy or should I say lack of strategy with competitive games. She has none, doesn’t care, so they fall into her lap. For me, on the other hand, I have to try like crazy and sometimes just come up short. This is how I ended up Hausherr in 1975.
She had the job teaching in a school on the southwest side of Chicago (what a delightful venue for a teaching job). It was well paying and a great start for us. I had to go through countless job interviews that only actually landed a job for the following year, (1976-1977 academic year) in order to start my career. I landed two jobs, I am sorry to say, one of which I quit even before starting since it was a private school and I really wanted to be in a public school so we could someday support a family. The one I took had its own little surprise for me. It was advertised as a position in French in the Middle School. When I got there, I found out what reality was: French, Drama, and Typing. As luck would have it, any teacher has to be a bit of a ham and I had a far and wide acquaintance with literature so that wasn’t a problem. The other good news was that I was very good at the keyboard and the course was literally taught by cassette tape anyway, if you can believe that.
Digressed again, so what is the Hausherr business? Well, my first year in Illinois, I did sub a bit, actually quite a lot. Since I was the freer of the two, it was up to me to take care of the apartment, get meals going, that type of stuff, so I was a male Hausfrau. It actually was kind of funny since the male/female roles were switched if we stereotype them, and one day Mary Kay came home from work and didn’t notice the tremendous amount of work I had put forth, and, I guess, I kind of lost it. In retrospect, it was really funny, then, I don’t think so.
With my retirement, pre-tirement, whatever you want to call it, I am home more. I am more able to deal with the “parents” issues of healthcare, dementia, whatever when the moms call up. I also have more free time so I tend to more of the household duties as well, I do the wash, clean wherever needed, yet still take care of the “manly” things I had been doing all our married life. It just occurred to me the other day that perhaps my original designation as “Hausherr,” although we didn’t name it that, was perhaps more apt than we had realized. I assumed that role again!
My question is, when do I go from “Putzfrau” to “Putzherr?”