I’m not talking about the automatic dishwashers that exist in most homes. I’m talking about mano y mano contact with soap, sink, and dirty dishes.
I have friends who say their parents never needed a riding lawn mower until the kids were grown and moved out of the house. With 3 girls in the Coleman household, my parents didn’t need electricity in the dishwashing department, either.
My older sister was the chief dishwasher, I was the dish dryer, and MA as the youngest got to help set and clear the table. I think those were lifetime appointments.
I don’t remember when I started drying dishes, but I can remember having a yearning in my 5-year-old heart to be the dishwasher. The promise was that I could start washing dishes when I finished kindergarten. That benchmark came and it was determined that the ideal age to start washing dishes was after first grade.
Sometime in the summer after I finished 1st grade when I was whining about having to a-l-w-a-y-s dry the dishes, my older sister said, “Well, you won’t be able to until you are in the 4th grade because the president changed the law.”
Said with the authority that only an older sister can muster when dealing with her younger siblings, I believed her. I hated that president.
I might have disliked my lot in dishwashing life, but I never questioned the fact that as sure as supper would be served at 6:30, dishes would be done at 7:00. As inevitable as Sunday’s roast and Monday’s stew, the dishes were the Coleman girls’ lot in life.
It was at the sink that we talked and shared secrets. I don’t know why our parents didn’t eavesdrop. Maybe they did. If they did, they’d have known who we liked, who had hurt our feelings, what we wished we could buy, what we would wear if Mother didn’t make all our clothes. Any one of a dozen little tidbits that might have been shared under the stars of a south Texas sky but were shared instead over Ivory Snow and hot water.
On Saturday night our dad became part of Team Coleman. The three of us vied for the chance to do dishes with him. It was even funnier because our dad was a terrible dishwasher. Giggling, we’d show him the offending dish. “Oh, no! We better get that clean or Eagle Eye Crack of the Big Whip (a.k.a. Mother) will get us!” Occasionally, he’d dismiss the dirty plate with “just dry it clean.” I think that was before E.coli.
I dreamed of having a REAL dishwasher when I left home. I found there’s little to laugh and talk about while you are loading an automatic washer. It’s just another household job. Not nearly as much fun as making microphones out of a soapy sponge and singing “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.” You don’t have the chance to blow soap bubbles at the cat if the soap’s in a plastic packet. Of course, I’ve saved a few dishes since I don’t have anyone to frisbee toss the plates to. Brings a whole new aspect to air drying.