Washing Dishes

August 29, 2018

I have never been very good at washing dishes.  My Mother, however, was tops in her W. S. Neal High School Home Economics class, circa 1964.  Her teacher, Mrs. Jane Smith, probably taught her more about life and how to do things correctly than anyone else and probably, in turn,  caused me more grief than any other human on earth.

In Mrs. Smith's class, your dishwater had to be smoking hot, nearly boiling.  This was before kids complained about getting burned, before regulators were put on hot water heaters in classrooms, and when life skills were important because women actually kept house. This was before parents chastised teachers for actually teaching their children valuable life lessons and allowed teachers to run their classrooms without interference. 

I assume that Mrs. Smith is the one who taught my mother to rub her hands on the inside of each pot and each pan to make sure that they were completely clean and had no residue, because this was the ritual in our home each night after the dishes were washed.

Keep in mind, that to this day in 2018, my Mother still has the pots and pans that she received for a wedding present in 1968, and they look almost exactly like they did the day she unwrapped them.  There is some wear, but there isn't a spec of anything on them.  They are a trophy of sorts.  Even though she has collected numerous better pots and pans throughout the years, there is one boiler that is a badge of honor that she will often pull out of the cabinet and say "I've had this pot since 1968, got it for a wedding present.  Look at it, just like brand new."

Washing dishes has never been high on my list of things I enjoy.  As far as house work goes, I hate it- all of it.  I would rather chew nails than clean.  I am a wonderful party planner, great cook, and designer, but domestic chores are not my calling in this life.  

Around age eleven, I remember dragging around with chores one Saturday morning that I didn't want to do when my Mother said "Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do in life that are necessary.  Cleaning the bathroom is necessary, and whether you want to do it or not, you will always have to do it."

None of that made sense to me.  I had plans, big plans.  None of my plans included cleaning a toilet, ever.  I imagined a home complete with a housekeeper, a cook, and a yard guy.  I had no intention of ever doing house chores, and so I responded 

"No, Mother,  I won't always have to do it, you are wrong.  You don't have to do things you don't want to do- you just make enough money to hire those things done for you.  I will never have to clean a bathroom when I grow up, because all of this is a waste of my time" to which she replied
"Well, Lizzy Louiza, you don't have that option and today you will clean this bathroom and you will stay in here until you do it."  I did it- four or five times that day I did it- until it was right.

More than anything, I hated washing dishes because it always began with some kind of game where we tested how hot we could stand the water.  Thanks, Mrs. Smith.  We had a dishwasher, but dishes weren't allowed in the dishwasher until they were properly washed.  Just because they are called dishwashers doesn't mean they actually wash dishes (at least that's what my Mother said).   

I was in the fifth grade and new to washing dishes the night that I begged for breakfast for dinner that my Mother graciously obliged me and cooked.  This was around the time that I learned the meaning of the phrase "half-ass".  My mother is not a fan of  half-ass anything and will snatch you bald-headed for half-assing any task.

I had struggled one day with a pan that I had the privilege of washing nine times because I had half-ass done it.  I should have learned at that point to do what Mother said, but I had a theory that if I did it poorly, she might not ever ask me to do it again.  I was wrong.  That breakfast-eating night, I put the pots and pans in the dishwasher and half-ass loaded it with the rest of the dishes.  I had no idea how important it was to remove grits from a ceramic boiler prior to putting it in a dishwasher, until the next morning when I was properly schooled.

6:45 a.m. my Mother began to unload the dishwasher and I heard  "HOOOOOLLLLY!!!  Get in the kitchen RIGHT NOW!"  I knew I had half-assed something, because that was the official call for half-assers.  I knew that call now, because I was preparing to win a medal in the Half-ass Domestic Olympics.  

I ran to the kitchen and she was holding the gritty pot- truly gritty- grits baked on the side.  "Give me your hand.  Give it to me.  Feel this."  She ran my hand around the entire inside of the boiler and I am quite sure my eyes were the size of saucers.   I felt it.  It was stuck.  The grits were baked on and felt like sandpaper and in her favorite boiler, oh Lord!

"Why did you put this in here without washing it like I told you?"

"Um, because I was ready to go to bed?"

"Didn't I tell you to wash it before you put it in the dishwasher?"

"Yes, ma'am, but...it's a dishwasher."

"Didn't I TELL YOU that dishwashers don't wash dishes?"

"Then why do we have the stupid thing?"

"Just for being a smart mouth, I should just whip your butt with this pot."

I had just received a neon orange sticker with the child abuse hotline number on it.  It was an 800 number, and I had stuck it on a notebook in my room.

I replied with "If you hit me with that pot, I am going to call the child abuse hotline."  

"You have the child abuse hotline number?  Really?  Where'd you get that?"


"Go get the number, let me see that."

I retrieved the notebook with the sticker affixed to it...

"I tell you what, Holly, why don't you call out that number to me."  She was holding the red Bellsouth slimline telephone with the long curly cord in her hand.

I asked "Why do you need the number?"

She said "I am going to dial it for you. One, Eight-hundred...  Here.  Tell them when they get here, they can identify you by your dental records."

Thankfully, my neighbor's mom pulled up and honked the carpool horn.  I jumped down the front steps of the house without even touching a single stair.  As I went out the door she said …

"And we aren't through with this conversation.  We will finish this when you get home."

It was the last day of fifth grade.  I physically was ill and by the time she got to school to pick me up.  I missed all of the parties the last day of school.  I had a temperature of 101.  I had worried myself sick, literally.  She, of course, had forgotten all about the pot in the dishwasher and washed it by the time I got home.  

I, on the other hand, am one of the best dishwashers in the tri-state area.    

***Update...I cleaned my own bathroom tonight and scrubbed the grout on the floor.  I also washed my own dishes.  My original pots and pans look exactly like they did the day that I got married in 1990. Thanks, Mrs. Smith.

Thank a teacher this week.  They are teaching your kids more than reading, writing, and arithmetic and their lessons might stick around for 50 years or more.

Love y'all,


1 comment:

  1. "dental records" LOVE IT. This is great fun, Holly.
    Love from a teacher. :)


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