It has taken me all year but I have finally found the Wife of Noble Character. The woman who actually does it all.
Many others have tried and failed to get an audience with this elusive everywoman. There’s not an hour in the day she’s free to chat, what with waking early to make her own bread, creating artisan linen and wool garments by hand, starting her own wine label, running a business and growing a trading empire, raising a well-dressed and articulate family, volunteering in the community and then working late into the night writing self-help books. I want to know how she does it.
I take the advice of her husband, a shrewd man among the elders at the city gates to look for her wherever the local children are gathering.
‘Ask for Ruby,’ he grins.
He’s right. Away from the bustle of the streets a crowd of scruffy youngsters are singing in the vineyard. And Ruby is there, huddled in the midst of the group; a baby on her back, a toddler grasping her hand and a twinkle in her eye.
‘Come over,’ she calls to me. Walking past several of her vineyard workers I want to be jealous of her success.
‘Can you spin flax?’ she asks, wiping the toddler’s nose and taking a pomegranate out of her bag to feed him. I want to tell her that I wouldn’t recognise flax if it came up to me all dressed in red. Instead I pause.
Some young boys are trying to learn to use a distaff and spindle, while a group of girls are singing spinning songs and teasing them. It looks ridiculously hard to me. Ruby takes each one and, without mocking them, helps them to get their timing and hold right. She is very patient despite their clumsiness. I decide not to embarrass myself.
‘Why are you teaching these boys to spin?’ I ask.
‘If the boys understand what the girls do, they will value them more,’ she says. ‘They won’t become cloth-makers, but they will love their wives and daughters better.’ She takes a bite of bread as she finishes.
‘Do men understand what women do?’ I ask her.
‘I think they want to,’ she says, ‘but only God truly understands me and he gives me strength.’
‘I can’t do everything,’ she says, ‘imagine that!’
Lucy Marfleet is a writer and educator who tries to tell the truth in imaginative ways. She has degrees in Theology and Biblical Studies and has worked in schools and prisons. Lucy lives with her husband and two children near Cambridge and blogs at www.lucymarfleet.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucymarfleet