Arguably one of the most detested chores when I was growing up was washing the dishes. Now, please understand, from the time I was 5 ½ years old, we lived in a “modern” house that had a dishwasher, so the chore would not seem to have been overwhelming. Still, I recall it as being the one on the job board (yes, my mother kept a great job board to ensure equitable assignment of daily chores amongst her six youngins) that I truly hated.
The whole concept of washing dishes the “old fashioned way” on a daily basis was pretty alien to me. So, when we moved to England when I was 10, I discovered there was a fate worse than the loading of the dishwasher. Our house in England was not equipped with a mechanical dishwasher. My parents seemed oblivious to this glaring shortcoming when they accepted this as our residence for the next three years. “Of course it was of little concern to them,” I thought, “They don’t have to wash the dishes…WE do!”
What I hated most about washing dishes by hand was that it was always a two person operation. With a family of eight, there was no dish rack big enough to simply let the dishes air dry; so, two siblings always shared the duties of washing and drying. In this situation there was no winner. The guy washing was always faster than the guy drying. And the guy drying had an undesirable habit of finding fault with the washing job. Arguments were the name of the game in the dish washing world!
One day, my bother Tim and I were assigned the chore and we decided that singing while we washed and dried would be a great idea. We sang a few songs we knew well without incident. And then we decided we would sing the song “Maryland, my Maryland.” Don’t ask me why. We were from Maryland, but neither of us really knew the song. However, that did not prevent us from engaging in a rather heated battle about the correct words.
I was washing that day, and I was holding a cast iron skillet when the argument accelerated beyond the point of reason. Furious at my brother by this point, I declared I was going to bean him on the head with that skillet! And indeed, that is exactly what I did…well…almost. I may have mentioned before I have a lousy aim. I missed, and the skillet left my hands and crashed to the floor.
Two things I learned in that moment which was an epiphany for me at age 11. I would likely have put a serious hurt on my brother, had I been a better shot, and cast iron actually breaks in two! And all because I was doing a chore I detested, and was engaging in a meaningless argument! I knew I had to face Mom with that broken skillet, and I was thankful my brother never shared why and how that skillet left my hands.
After that day, I recall looking at dishwashing a little differently. It was an opportunity for me to clean up messes rather than making them. I was actually a little sad when we returned to our home in MD, with the oh-so-modern dishwasher. I reverted to complaining when it was my turn to fill the beast, but I really grew to detest emptying it! Still, I never again raised my hand with or without an object with the intent of inflicting bodily injury on another. I guess washing those dishes, did prepare me better for life than I could have expected in those days!