Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Figuring It Out
I am standing at the sink washing the breakfast dishes, idly wondering how many times I've run a soapy sponge across a plate or scrubbed the residue of cooked food from the bottom of a pot. It’s like wondering how many meals I’ve cooked over the last fifty-odd years. The numbers are shocking, but pointless.
I like doing the dishes, though. I almost always have.When we were kids, my sisters and I would sing rounds as my mother washed and we dried. The poor farmer’s wife was chased unmercifully by three blind mice, or we’d row, row, row our boats until my father would be forced to rattle his newspaper and harrumph from his chair in the next room. Oftentimes my mother would teach us songs from her own childhood. We learned Aloutte in French, and a naughty ditty about angels ascending on high (all the little angels ascend up, ass-end up). I still hum those tunes when my hands are occupied with warm sudsy water and stacks of dirty dishes.
Holiday cleanups were more fun than everyday dish chores. There would always be an extra aunt or two in the kitchen, and the cousins to help. There was also great deal of laughter and interesting conversation and the sort of bonding that comes from work shared. I would volunteer to put away, rather than dry, the dishes. I liked being trusted with the best china. I would carefully stack the dinner plates, the saucers, the dessert plates, and carry them into the dining room. I liked the cedar-y smell of the hutch and the cunning way everything fit just so on the crowded shelves. One misplaced cup and one would have to empty the entire cupboard and start over.
Now, washing dishes gives me time to think without making me look indolent. I like to watch the day wake up outside the kitchen window while I scrub the bits of breakfast egg from a plate or rinse the suds from my teacup. If I’m home at noon, the completion of lunch dishes is like being offered carte blanche for the afternoon. Supper dishes signal the end of the day’s work. Who can say a word then if I fling myself in a chair with a book or sit idly flipping through a catalog?
Figuring it all out, if I’ve done dishes on the average of two times a day (bypassing lunch which is most often eaten on the job) for the last 59 years that’s a little over 43,000 times I’ve stood at the kitchen sink to wash up after a meal. Toss in a few extra hours for those days I do eat lunch at home, add in extra sink duty for every holiday, and the number is staggering. I’ve enjoyed that many sunrises and sunsets though, had countless interesting thoughts, and used some of that time to teach my own children about rowing boats and ascending angels.
Inspired by Judith's question, "Why Do You wash the Dishes?"
Thanks, Hilary !