Sometimes I feel as though my life is bookended by dirty dishes. Every morning, as I Frankenstein-walk to my stove to make coffee, I am confronted by dishes. Even when I washed every last cup, bowl and fork the night before, somehow a bevy of dirty dishes appears in my sink the next morning. It’s as though there are hungry elves living in my cupboard who wait for the midnight hour when they can rudely soil my plates and leave them for me to find. I realize a band of ill-mannered elves is a difficult concept to swallow, but the responsible party is either the elves or my husband. And if I blame my husband, that’s just one more grievance against him that I must add to the long list of grievances I already have, and if I add one more grievance, I might possibly strangle him in his sleep, so I choose to blame the elves. If you are married, you understand.
If I may digress for a moment, let me point out that my husband rarely does the dishes, and only does them when he is putting off a more unpleasant task. His answer to my dishpan hand-woes is the dishwasher. Just soak everything, fill up the machine, and crank it on.
There are, of course, two problems with this. Soaking just doesn’t cut it. I’ve seen the commercial—the one where the woman puts an entire cake in the dishwasher, yet still, every plate comes out sparkling clean. Well, let me tell you, either the advertisers are lying through their teeth or that particular dishwasher costs more than my car. You have to scrub the gunk of the plates, the peanut butter and mayo off the spoons, the milk ring off the cups. If you put a dish with any amount of skode on it in the dishwasher, it will come out with cement skode. And then you’ll spend ten minutes scraping the fossilized skode off the plate with a razor blade. Soaking doesn’t remove the skode, it actually spreads the skode around, so that before, there might have been only one skodey plate, but now every item soaking now has a layer of skode on it.
The second problem is that if I wait to run the dishwasher until it’s full, there is an imbalance of items and the resulting shortage of certain necessities. Like cups. And spoons. For some reason, we go through cups and glasses in my house as though they are going out of style. I like to think that we are a very hydrated family. And spoons, too. We use them for coffee, yogurt, cereal, ice cream, the hiccup trick. Lots of spoons. We run out of cups and spoons long before plates, forks, knives and bowls.
So there I am, standing in front of the dishwasher with nary a spoon or cup to be found. I have to open the dishwasher door, thereby disrupting the cycle, grab for a couple of cups and spoon that are screaming hot, but not yet clean, then restart the machine, which groans with protest before reluctantly starting itself again, and I end up scrubbing the necessary items anyway. To me, it’s far better to simply wash as I go.
So, every morning, dishes. Every night, dishes. Sometimes in the middle of the day, dishes. And my life happens in between. I am actually thankful for the doing of dishes, glad I don’t have a housekeeper to relieve me of this task. Because despite the fact that the skin of my hands cracks and bleeds regularly and my nails grow brittle and break, and I loathe the forty-two year old porcelain sink that we can’t yet afford to replace with the stainless steel Rolls Royce of sinks I saw at Home Depot, doing the dishes is very meditative. This task offers a momentary reprieve from the demands of motherhood and wife-dom.
Twenty minutes of not having to cater to the every whim of my children—I basically can’t hear their voices over the water rushing from the faucet. Fifteen minutes to think about absolutely nothing, or Hugh Jackman, depending on my mood. Ten minutes to pretend I’m on X-Factor, wowing Simon Cowell with my splendid white-girl version of RESPECT. Five minutes to figure out how I’m going to tell my husband that I mistook his favorite “comfy” shirt for a rag and bleached three gaping white spots into it. Suds, scrub, rinse, stack, repeat. I know it sounds crazy, but occasionally, subconsciously, I use more dishes than I need just to extend my subsequent dish-doing respite. Two knives for the sandwich—you know, one for the peanut butter and one for the jelly. That kind of thing.
Perhaps I’ve spent too much time pondering this simple fact of life. I’ll have to consider that notion, and I will, soon, as the sink is overflowing with–you guessed it–dirty dishes.