13th thread: The weaving of the thread, the weaving of your day
Now look carefully. I use two shuttles or more, if I want to interweave more than two colors. At first, when you learn, you use two shuttles at most, you can change the threading later in the fabric. You start with white and red, for example, and then you add the blue and you take away the red. In our family, we do not use more than three colors in one fabric, by sobriety. After weaving in the afternoon, you’ll make sure that the kitchen fire is still burning well, in preparation for the evening meal which is always simple: bread with olives and onions, a few grapes. You check also the food store. You will know if the servants and slaves help themselves behind your back. You have to remember exactly from one day to the next how much oil remained, and cereals, olives, honey, wine. If a food stock is getting low, you warn your husband, unless you have a steward, it will depend on your means. After the meal, the children wash, to get rid of the dust of the day. You use the fountain in the court to avoid wetting the interior. The children must be naked when you and the maid pour water on their heads. Never forget, even if you are tired, even if they complain, to sing the prayer of sprinkling water for their vigor to be protected, only the pains and hardships will be washed away. The day repeats just the same, except when there is a birth, an illness or a death. Now exchange the shuttle with the other, pass it under five threads, then skip the first. After each row, you pull it one thread further for the pattern to go sideways. After the meal, the children go to their room for the night. Unless you go to the baths, it is a time for you to rest.The poor go to bed as soon as the sun sets, but we have lamps and candles. Sometimes your husband will hire a musician at night. You can never deny your husband. When relations would be unclean, you send a maid to tell him. I have heard that some men treat their wives tenderly, that they like them to enjoy their caresses, but most reserve these games for their courtesans and take their women as they brush their feet at the door. Your husband has to visit you at least three times a month, that’s the law. There is more enjoyment between women then we get from men. Do not clean yourself after your husband’s visit. If it happens in the morning, that’s different, because you must wash in the morning. But at night, do not clean yourself, or the pregnancy will be complicated. You stay in bed quietly until morning. You use the chamber pot before your husband comes, never after. Your aunt ate a fermented pancake, she got up during the night to use the chamber pot, but as her husband had visited her, she had a bad pregnancy and the child was stillborn. When you get up in the morning, you wash while your husband and children are still sleeping. You take a fresh towel every morning, you soak it in cool water and you rub your face and hands and feet. You take another one for the crotch. It is the poor who do not wash or who reuse rags. Your morning toilet removes the harmful emanations of the night and prepares you for the day. Next you check that the servant has rekindled the fire, and especially that she has removed yesterday’s ashes, otherwise the fire will burn poorly all day. The maids cook porridge and bread, but you, you bake more delicate foods, especially if you have guests, like fruit preserves, or the pastries that I have taught you. Unless you have a very good cook, but they are hard to find and expensive. You could start a stripe with a solid color, and then we could skip back under five threads in the other direction. Sometimes I look at fabrics that I received, or I remember the patterns shown by my mother. I also invent, always in keeping with our tradition. There are cities where the world is woven into fabrics, silhouettes of warriors, horses and temples. But in our tradition, we think it is presumptuous to represent pictures of men, gods and animals which are at their place on temples or vases. Our patterns come from our ancestors before there were men or women, when only the gods wove. They protect us from disease, accidents, and spells. After the preparations for the morning meal, you take care of the children. If there is more than one child, you will need the nurse to help. You teach them the daily tasks they need to accomplish, you teach them a demeanor worthy of our standing, the names of things, the secrets of life, that the oil lamp burns, that water pours from high to low, that the days are warm and the nights cool, that men are powerful and women stay home. We do not know. Perhaps an enemy faction will gain influence and we will lose all our goods, we will live in rags and beg our food.Maybe there will be an attack of robbers. A war. A famine. We, in our homes, can not change it. But, day after day, you can weave of you into your work as you add sometimes an unexpected pattern in your daily chores, when you sing to a child who had a nightmare in the middle of the night, or you cook a small sesame cake for your daughter who just lost her first tooth. At the end of the row, turn the shuttle around without twisting the thread. It must always be at rest or it becomes hostile and eventually will knot. It is the sign of a bad wife if there is a knot in the middle of a row. The thread must be even row after row with nothing to disturb the alignment. Men win trophies, they discuss, write books, instigate rebellions, and die like a ship sinks in the sea, without ever having achieved, it seems, all they wanted. We need to find our fulfillment through our work, when we have not allowed a single knot in the fabric, when our children survive a disease through our care. And so every day you go about your work, row after row.