Somewhere along the way, you have mistaken the hearth for project management. For a deluge of unpaid, domestic, emotional, reproductive labor that has nothing to do with fire. She did not sign up for this, and frankly, Hestia is getting pretty sick of your shit. It is not her purview to remember your mother’s birthday. It is not her sole responsibility to know the name of the children’s pediatrician and to remember to wash their favorite shirt for school and to call the plumber to look at the leak. She was entrusted with the hearth and its contents for eternity, and it wasn’t glamorous, but it was hers. She was willing to endure soot on the soles of her feet and the smoke in her hair. And, not that you noticed, but there she was, for thousands of years, tending the heat and the embers and the most primordial force in order to keep your ass from freezing to death. Wasn’t that enough?
But now, there has been what you mortals might call mission creep. It has taken on a more general domestic flavor that encompasses not just the flame but anything that makes your life more convenient. Using the fire for cooking and cleaning, and then one day, “Would you be a dear?” with a list pressed into her palm of all the things that weren’t her real work, but which she agreed to anyway, to prove that she’s a team player.
“You’re welcome,” she wants to say, as they leave the dinner table with empty plates and without a word. “Never mind, I’ll get it,” when it comes time to take out the garbage at the end of the party she hosted single-handedly for your work friends.
And it doesn’t seem like nagging should count as work, but it is effort, and if you would just go see the doctor about that thing with your heart or your wrist or your ear, or some other precious part of you that you’ve neglected and she has kept watch over, then maybe she could get back to her real work. Or perhaps get some sleep.
Because now, instead of keeping the fire burning, she is ironing your shirt and remembering your best friend’s wife’s favorite flower and vacuuming underneath the dining room table for the third time this week, and the embers have dwindled, so she’s pulling her shawl around her shoulders while she writes this week’s meal plan and tacks it on the fridge next to the reminder about the school bake fair for which she will, of course, bake her famous pumpkin chocolate chip bread. And honestly, Hestia is getting pretty sick of this shit.
And it’s not that she would mind except for the fact that she’s a goddess, and that heat—which she had so lovingly doted on, coaxing it from the cold stone hearth for thousands of years—doesn’t seem to be enough these days. And just because she is a crone doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve heat.
Once, a man tried to teach me how to build a fire after I’d just spent three months in the Canadian wilderness boiling any water I wanted to drink and crafting gourmet meals over open flame. He tried to mansplain letting the sticks bend toward each other: “Like a tent, see?” As though fire were any of his business.
Christy Tending (she/they) is an activist, writer, and mama living in Oakland, California. Their work has been published in Longreads, Catapult, and Electric Literature, among many others. Their first book, High Priestess of the Apocalypse, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions. You can learn more about their work at www.christytending.com or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.