Wednesday, February 1, 2012


     Whatever my Mom cooks up in the kitchen, my Dad always washes the dishes, and unfortunately for him, she only prepares food in soup kitchen proportions.  He is methodical in his approach, making organized piles with the intention to not merely clean the dishes but sterilize them.  When I was little and dishes meant playing in water, I would stand on a stool at the sink in between my Dad's arms splashing.  Once when left alone, I decided to float my orange Tic Tacs like miniature gold fish in a tiny tank.  Instead, of a small world of wonder, I palmed tasteless, bloated albinos.  So much for science.
     My blind Grandmother would dry, and I'd rinse and put away.  She'd often warn me that a wet shirtfront would result in a drunkard for a husband, and once she scolded me for rinsing the dishes in cold water.  Apparently the cavernous, antique stock pots would transfer the chill right into her body.  However, we both enjoyed listening to my Dad laugh at the old Simpsons episodes playing in the background.
     At 15 I landed my first legal job as a dishwasher at the deli in our local grocery store.  There I'd scrub pots big enough to boil small children. (Ham salad was our specialty).  My shirtfront would be drenched through despite my apron.  A fresh box of Chore Boy scrubbies plucked from the shelves would help temporarily lighten the work.  I was mopping the deli's floor when my Sister-in-law came to notify me that my Grandma passed away.
     As a full-time volunteer at Annunciation House, we'd wash the stains out of each others' mugs--neither a mug or volunteer absent of a chip or crack.  I was always thankful for the enthusiastic guests who'd volunteer to be dishwashers.  They were brave souls confronting skittering cockroaches and a bubbling grease trap.
     When first married, my husband and I would have lavish cooking adventures that would result in a mound of dishes.  We quickly became really good at artfully stacking dirty dishes in our shoe box kitchen.  Dishes were political now.  The first one to tire of eating cereal with a grapefruit spoon would buckle down and suds up.  It was at that tiny sink one Saturday morning, that I stood trembling, tears mixed with the bubbles after finding out that I was pregnant.  In that moment doing dishes was the only thing I could manage.
     Now as I turn my leaky faucet on, I hear my little toddler shout "Bubbles" as she charges the sink with stool in hand.  I awkwardly straddle her as we make our way through piles of dishes.  Together we peek through our kitchen window into the house next door as our teenage neighbors take turns at the sink.  I  wonder what dishes are in my daughter's future.  I think about shouting to the teens that performing an unwanted task slowly only makes it take longer.  But mostly I think about the boys' drunk wives and how happy they'll be that they aren't washing the dishes.

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