My mother’s pots were always shiny, gleaming, so incredibly brilliant that you could nearly see your reflection well enough to comb your hair just by looking at the bottom of her Dutch oven. It was only after Daddy moved in with us that I began to really understand the importance of those shiny glistening pots and pans and skillets.
The evening routine didn’t vary at my house during my childhood. After the supper dishes were cleared, it was time for piano practice—for me. While I did that, my parents did the dishes. My mother washed and Daddy dried. She refused to ever change roles, claiming that the hot sudsy water soothed the ache and pain of her rheumatoid arthritis a little. All the glassware, dishes and silverware were washed first, leaving the pots and pans till last. At that point she would say something like this to Daddy,
“Honey, this will take a while. Why don’t you go on and watch TV or something? I’ll finish up here . . .” and he would answer,
“Well, all right then . . . Are ya’ sure?” and, even before the words were out of his mouth, he would be finished hanging up the dish towel, ready to flee the kitchen.
My mother would stay at the kitchen sink, scratching and rubbing, rinsing and polishing, scritching and scratching some more, going through SOS™ pads one after the next until she was completely satisfied. Even if there was only one skillet and a saucepan or two, it took her a long time to finish. Ten minutes, twenty minutes could pass and I could hear her in there, scouring in rhythm to whatever piece I was playing, maybe humming along if it was a melody she knew. Sometimes she wouldn’t emerge from the kitchen until my hour of practice time was almost over, rubbing hand lotion up to her elbows and complementing me, “that was lovely, dear. You’re really making progress.”
Eight years after my mother passed, at the beginning of his ninth decade, Daddy moved in with us. Some things never change. Cleaning up the supper dishes went exactly as I remembered, even though there was, by then, an automatic dishwasher on the premises. Still, he eagerly stepped into his well-practiced dish dryer role without being asked, whisking off things like plastic ware or anything else that isn’t dishwasher safe, hanging out at the kitchen sink with either my husband or me, whichever one of us was rinsing and loading the dishwasher.
Some things became apparent. Daddy was a talker. Actually, I had always known that about him but what I hadn’t realized quite so intensely was this: in this scenario, the person rinsing/washing the dishes becomes a completely captive audience for all that talking. Saying he was a talker is rather an understatement. Daddy didn’t know how to be quiet—period. He would talk about any and everything: the weather, the neighbors, what he read in the newspaper, what the doctor said last week, something he did back in 1955, his favorite model of car, ole Mr. So-and-So that directed the church choir, his opinion about women as sportscasters, his sister’s boy’s grandson that got arrested for using drugs and oh, that reminded him, did he take his pills at dinner? Much as I loved him, I was going stark raving bananas barely two weeks after he’d moved in.
I tried having a little music on the radio during our time together at the sink. He just talked a little louder. I considered earplugs, played out the kind of quarrel that would ensue if I told him to pipe down, feverishly racked my brain for a polite way to banish him from the kitchen. How on earth did my mother endure this incessant babbling, how did she survive such constant inconsequential prattling for nearly sixty years? A vision of her shiny pots floated past me . . . EUREKA!
What a clever woman! My mother carved out a little space for herself in the quest for cleanliness and, in the process, probably saved her marriage. She ensured some peace and quiet at the end of her busy days in the name of sparkling pots.
And what a clever daughter I am! I have seen through her strategy. In spite of what the ads for dishwasher detergents say, you know it’s a good idea to remove any globs of stuck-on food and debris from pots and pans before loading them in the dishwasher. So . . .
“Daddy, this will take a little while. Why don’t you go on and watch TV or something? I’ll finish up here.”
“Well, all right then. Are ya’ sure?”
And what a clever, nearly devious Daddy! I’m sure he’d wink and chuckle to himself as he headed to his room, just in time to catch the kick-off of Monday Night Football.
About the author ~
Diann Logan is the author of The Navel Diaries: How I Lost My Belly Button and Found Myself (TerraCotta Publishing 2015), her humorous and poignant observations about getting older. Dear Navel Diary, Are You Listening? (TerraCotta Publishing 2018) continues her exploration of life’s surprises. She is also the author of Designs in Patchwork (Oxmoor House, 1987) and her designs and patterns have appeared in numerous other publications ranging from Ms. Magazine to Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. She is a recent contributor to The Quilt Life and Generation Q Magazine and spends time in her sewing room completing the collection of the dozens of quilts she made with her father during his last years. A gallery of her quilts is at diannloganquilts.com.
Diann is on faculty with University of Colorado Denver, belongs to Colorado Authors League and is a cast member of Listen To Your Mother Boulder 2016 and Listen To Your Mother Boulder 2018. She lives with her husband and their spoiled spaniel in Arvada, Colorado.