ginny: on doing dishes

The experience of washing the dishes isn’t the same from day to day.  So much depends on what is going on around me, as well as what is planned for the time afterwards. I can conjure up a perfectly peaceful dish washing session, completely present, totally in touch with the water and the warmth and the feel of the sponge going round and round, and say “this is washing the dishes”.  But that would ignore all the times that there have been heated discussions going on behind me, or within me, when my mind is racing and I am anywhere but in front of the sink.  It would ignore all of the speed washing sessions, as I am late, once again, getting out the door to work in the morning.

The fact is that most times when I am washing the dishes it is none of these things.  It is an automated activity that I neither relish nor despise.  I don’t like dishes left in the sink, although I have made peace with the various wine glasses and tea cups that clutter the counter top next to the sink in the hours after dinner.  I don’t mind dishes left in the drainer, and actually prefer to leave them there rather than dry them. 

On days like today, when there are a couple of things being made, dishes are being washed constantly.  I hate for wet dishes to be stacked on top of almost dry dishes, and so I must dry the first load of dishes before I begin washing the new ones.  Two of my least favorite activities banded together – drying the dishes and then putting them away.  Although my house is generally tidy, the thing I hate to do is put things away.  This includes dishes, as well as groceries and laundry.  I don’t mind doing the grocery shopping.  Throwing in loads of laundry does not bother me in the least.  Putting these things away is an entirely different matter. 

But back to dishes, and more specifically today’s dishes, I do get a sense of satisfaction out of making a mess and then cleaning it up.  Today I made my mother’s potato salad for the first time this summer.  In order to make potato salad I must boil the potatoes, chop celery, cook bacon, and create a dressing with mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, and celery seed. The potatoes must be boiled, whole and with their skins on.  Once they are done, while they are still hot, they get peeled, which involves a plastic bag to put the skins in and a cutting board to chop them and then the bowl that holds them once they are in nice little cubes. The celery doesn’t add much to the general mess going on, but there is another cutting board and knife involved. Cooking bacon is the star of the show, with the grease filled pan and the plate with the paper towels for draining and the little cup to hold the bacon grease after each batch is made.  The mayonnaise spoon and the bowl and the whisk all end up with dressing all over them, and some on the counter top for good measure.

This is a dish I have made often.  Each time I have made a huge mess.  But here’s the part I like about doing the dishes.  I like taking that huge mess and making everything clean again.  I like seeing the counter top filled with bowls and spoons and splatters of bacon grease and mayonnaise, and setting everything right again.  The sight of the dishes in the drainer, all clean after being so messy, makes me happy.

I have to admit that sometimes in the evening I will walk into the kitchen, see the dishes in the drainer in the glow from the light over the sink, and think that life is good.  I love the colors of my plates and glasses, and I love how shiny and bright they are under the spotlight.  I love that the kitchen looks lived in and it looks tidy.  

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