It began to occur to me that for all of my life I have washed the dishes in the exact same way. My regiment of order with dishes had never failed to be arrived at by surprise by friends, roomates, and loves through the years; mainly because I’ve very disordered about most everything else. I always prestack the dishes to start out, sorting them all into piles. First tall glass glasses, mugs and cups (the most breakable first), plastic cups and pitchers and glass measuring cups. Then, plates from big to small in size with the bowls, same order applying going up. Then pans, sorted by size and then scuzziness. Curiously the silverware falls somewhere between the plates and pans. Same order, everytime, even if I’m not doing the dishes. Some times people will find me arranging their dishes in the same way, even if I’m not going to wash them.
So then I began to think, how did this occur? Why the strickness? As a child, one of my outstanding memories is that of cleaning. While our house never really resembled a cookie cutter house with gleaming surfaces, we did our chores like everyone else. We lived in a three- story house, mostly wood logs in the middle of 16 acres of woodland, multiple pets, and three kids. Every Saturday mom would divvy out the chores, “You, take dusting and vacumming, you clean the bathrooms, you mop and sweep.” In addition, nightly washing of the dishes was passed from the siblings with much grumbling and procrastination. We washed our dishes by hand; oh we had a dishwasher, but it broke a few years into the house, and mom and dad never bothered to fix it- a luxury we couldn’t afford. If asked why we never got a new one, dad would say “we have dishwashers-Daniel, Susan, and David.” So it continued to be a sibling duty.
Over the years, I began washing the dishes more, as I soon found out that the chore wasn’t to be dreaded but as more as opportunity. My earliest form of therapy I believe was found at that two compartment sink, starring out into the woods, maybe singing a song, but mostly thinking and playing in the suds. It was a real piece of solitude. You could either be in silence or accompanied by the sounds of contentment - newspaper ruffling, nightly news on, kids cracking open school books, my parents pulling out papers to grade, the sloshing of the water....even now I breathe deep smelling dish soap. And of course there’s the complete satisfaction that comes along of cleaning. You get to see work in a very tangible way. First a pile of grungy, food covered dishes, which after a little care turn into glistening stacks of completed duty.
Later on, when working through college in a greasy spoon, cafeteria, or pizza joints, I would surprise other employees by actually volunteering to do the dishes, a chore they mostly loathed. But once again, it presented itself so tantilizingly-screaming solitude and respite. I suppose, it will continue to call me.
I found myself smiling and realized that I had finished all the dishes, I drained the water and washed off all kitchen surfaces, thus completing the whole washing up process. Perhaps those “good ol’ day” memories will all be so enlightening.