Name: Amy Marquis
Occupation: … Domestic Engineer …
Pay: zero dollars and zero cents
Years Employed: 17
When I was sixteen I was in my garden in the foothills of California, hacking away at the thick red earth with my hoe. I was determined to clear that patch of land of the many rocks and soften the unwilling clay into something usable if it would kill me.
I was exercising my demons.
One row from the end I looked over my handy work of clumped earth and snarled grassroots, their yellow brown hairs facing the sky in embarrassed dryness. I felt despair. This garden looked like me. So much toiling. Still ugly. Seeing the bumpy ground that needed a rototiller to whip it into submission but that got, instead, the wrath of a teenager and a very rusty garden hoe, hit me with a profound sense of futility. I lay aside the hoe and looked at the changing sky. I had been in the garden since I came home from school and sunset had begun to brew over the barn atop the oak trees that lined Lime Kiln Road. I walked to the barn, climbed the horse corral and alighted the metal roof of the barn to see the show. Sunsets in that place were different that the vast, wide open ones of my childhood in the Los Angeles desert. Those were breathtaking, especially when the Angeles Mountains were on fire, which was often. But the oak trees and rolling hills of my new home, obscured the view and made for this dynamic, silhouette shadow show of brilliant colored sky and deep, dark trees. I carried my sense of futility with me to the cold metal roof and sat, chilly but patient as the brush strokes altered the great sky. I was not really frustrated with the garden so much as I was with the apparent pointlessness of the life I was living. At school, I worked to achieve perfect grades, at home I worked to cook and clean and care for my little sister. But I had this cosmic weight of pointlessness jabbing at my ribs all the while. What is all of this leading to? If heaven is my home and earth is some kind of lonely test then what is the point of struggling toward an end that may not really mean anything at all? That question had me bagged and netted.
But that evening, as I was looking at the sky and praying for help, I became aware of an absolute Presence. In the sky, in my soul, in air around me. Electric. Alive. Big. I became very still, very small, very whole. I stared out into the wild colors of the sky and I felt the futility of my life fall away. I felt God, feminine in gentleness, masculine in command and altogether lovely, draping a cloak across my bloody soul, saying, “Live!”
Just live. Do not dwell in the meaningless of everything under the sun. I had another whom my heart loved who did that and look where that brought him. Live. Work hard and learn to love and just give yourself over to it all. I love this earth or I would not have kept it for you.
And just like that, those quiet words inside of my soul’s hearing and the feeling of being transported into a new realm, changed me. I allowed myself to live. And that feeling lasted like a perfume around y head for days. I am not simply a pilgrim passing through, I am not just to dismiss the wonder of the world I currently find my feet in. I am to live it all. Suck the marrow and all that.
I was released by the weight of futility and was able to finally think with clarity. I knew that I wanted something that would make everyone deeply unhappy. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It was that night that I decided that, more than anything else in the world, I wanted to be a mother. More than any other occupation, I wanted to make a home full of goodness, truth, and beauty. What that would ultimately look like, I was a little vague on, but I hoped it looked like gardening and clothes lines full of linens and loads of little ones to care for.
Over twenty years later, I am doing essentially that. Instead of college, I worked at a camp where I met the sweetest boy in the world. He fell in love with me and I loved his heart. We married on the beach where we kissed for the first time. Now he is old and I am old and we have a home full of wild things. We married when I was still a teenager and we raised each other till we became symbiotic in many ways. He became more of himself and something like me and visa versa. The details of our lives have more sharp edges than I had hoped, but the truth of the matter is the same. I saw what I wanted and I saw a way to do it. I married my best sweet boy, my first boy, and together we became adults and made the most foolish, embarrassing mistakes you could ever ask for.
So I have been the quintessential barefoot and pregnant for the majority of my adult life. I have created a universe for myself and my family and I am not sorry. I make money with my writing but I am, first and forever, a home maker, a homeschooler, and a homely shadow of the ideals I once held. But I am also glad. Joy filled. Not often happy, but often full of joy.
So, for those of you family and friends, who thought that the Bearded Wonder and I got married young just so we could have sex. You were not wrong. But it was more, of course. He and I were peas and carrots and thick as thieves. I was never mad with infatuation for him and he was never a crush. Heaven knows, I’ve had those and they are long lasting, some of them still going in a quiet cavern of my brain after all these years. But we are home to one another and that is really something.
For those of you, friends and family, who were bitterly disappointed in me for not pursuing an education in favor of becoming a teen bride, I invite you to survey the lives of those who follow the linear path. How many people actually get to do and be what they want when they “grow up”? How many people get to actually work in the field of their degrees? I am all for education, I adore learning. But to what end? I knew I wanted to get married and have children in a home education kind of way that would require me to be home full time. I knew that I had no money for college and very little home support to pursue a degree that I would gladly throw away the moment it was time to have children. I knew my path was cliche and out of date and not the least bit glamorous. But I knew it was for me. Not because of a religious compulsion, but because of a vocational decision.
A young mother was speaking to me the other day and like many people, assumed that I held a college degree. When I told her that I never finished more than one English course in college, but chose to educate myself at home with voracious reading, she grew quiet, her face a little pink under her translucent skin. Weeks later she approached me and said that she was very glad that my family supported my decision to not go to college and to pursue my own way. When I told her that, no, in fact they were appalled at my throwing away my brains for such a foolish path, but that I was undeterred and did it anyways like I do most things. She again grew a little pink and a little quiet. And she ruminated. At the close of the evening she approached me once again. She said that she wished she hadn’t felt pressured to go to college and gotten an obsolete degree that she never uses and wouldn’t really even translate into the workplace anymore. She wished she had done what I have done and just surrounded herself with learning of the variety that would suit what she, honest to God, wanted to know and do. Read this: I am for education. But not all education looks the same. I have read and read and taught myself even as I taught my children and am all the better for it.
“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”Mark Twain
Word, my lovely Twain man. [Unhelpful Side Note: I have a problem with falling head over heals, inappropriately in love with dead authors. Twain, Hemingway, Lewis. You have my heart.]
For those of you that had the unlucky misfortune to walk in on the Bearded Wonder and I, the summer we were engaged and would sneak into the walk in freezer at camp to make out, I say only two things. One: the freezer was worth the cold and probably prevented an unwanted pregnancy. Two: it turned out okay in the end, and you can stop being scandalized now.
Thus concludes my manifesto on being barefoot and pregnant.