This evening found me at the kitchen sink, hand washing a frying pan that has been used to prepare a simple yet satisfying dinner. I have never cared for putting frying pans in the dishwasher; feeling that they hasten the untimely demise of the Teflon coating. Come to think of it, I have never really been that fond of dishwashers in general.
At the risk of sounding like a Palmolive commercial right out of the 1960’s, there is a certain satisfaction that comes out of washing dishes by hand. Yes, one would leap to the conclusion that I have checked in my rugged masculinity in favor of a scrub sponge! At this juncture, I will enthusiastically point out that Navy Seals hand wash their mess kits right before rushing into harm’s way!
My mother has pictures of me at two years of age, perched precariously on a kitchen chair, joyfully washing dishes at the sink. Much like the annual school class pictures; there are pictures of me at the sink pretty much every year of my life, from toddler to late teen. It is like I came of age with a pot scrubber firmly clasped in my wrinkled hands.
Memories rushing through my head tonight; I pondered what it was about washing dishes that was so important in my life. I can rule out an aversion to dishwashing machines, given that I was in my early teens before my parents purchased one. My parents asked that we contribute to the household in the form of chores, but dishwashing was never mandated. I am not Mysophobic (possessing a pathological fear of contamination and germs), so the benefits of antibacterial liquid dish soap fall short with me!
As I rinsed the frying pan, a familiar feeling overcame me. Suddenly I was filled with a warm sense of accomplishment. There had been a task at hand, I had gladly undertaken it with pure enthusiasm, I successfully saw the project through to completion, and now I could relax on the couch. It amazed me that such a simple act could bring so much satisfaction to me.
Washing dishes has always allowed my mind to drift with no limits. Often times a mundane act of repetition makes us lose our focus. Automated actions, replicated over years, do not require much in the way of mental acuity. As the hands labor, the mind is liberated! I have reminisced about wondrous events from the past, properly trimmed in nostalgia; all the very while rinsing out drinking glasses. I have mentally visited faraway lands and met exotic peoples; my journeys rooted in scrubbing dried and heavily caked tomato sauce out of a pan.
Each of us has a human need to contribute and be valued by those around us. Washing dishes is not one of the more glamorous domestic duties. It is rare to see several relatives arguing over who is going to wash the Thanksgiving dishes! Immersing your hands into water filled with grease and food refuse is not something terribly appealing. The individual who volunteers to do the dishes is in fact throwing themselves on a hand grenade, sacrificing themselves for the common good of all around them!
Watching the used dish water spinning down the drain in a tight vortex; the significance of what had just happened become a pleasant realization. Hand washing the dishes is truly a microcosm of the totality of our lives! We are driven by need for a sense of accomplishment. We take shelter in the comfort of warm past memories, using them as a foundation for our hopes and aspirations. We are at our best when we take a break from the doldrums of the everyday world and dare to dream! To know that we are valued by friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers is elixir for the soul. All of this transpires each time we stand at the kitchen sink, staring down at a pile of dishes in the soapy water!
Washing dishes at the sink has never been work to me; rather, it has been a joy! It took me fifty-three years to finally arrive at the reasons I enjoy the scrubbing and rinsing so very much! Unbeknownst to me, I have been living my life to the fullest, all the very while situated in a common kitchen. I consider myself fortunate to have experienced this transformative journey with a Brillo pad in hand. I may not have known why the quest made me feel good, but I undertook it anyway! I actually look forward to next time I have to hand wash a dish or a pot.
We all have dirty dishes in our lives, waiting for us to clean them. I will gladly wash, if you will rinse!