In My Write Mind
Dish duty. Two words that are usually curse words to a teenager. Especially one like me, who was as allergic to housework as I was to pollen, one who would rather be watching TV or playing outside than have anything to do with "busting suds." And those dinner dishes were the worst.
Indeed, the ritual of removing remnants of rice or ravioli was about as riveting as being rendered a root canal. It was that bad.
On New Year’s Day, my family gathered for our first meal of the year, a routine dinner that included the usual ingredients--equal parts good food and good conversation. Indeed, during the dining session, we reminisced over the past 365 days, talked about what we wanted to accomplish over the next 365 and promised to call each other more and argue with one another less.
During the first course, while stabbing our salads, we chuckled as we heard about my nephew’s being reprimanded in school, with him swearing up and down that he didn’t "do anything" to deserve the discipline, recalling those many times when we sat at the very same table saying the very same thing.
Course Two had us passing the peas (like we used to do) while my six year-old niece struggled through a slurred grill while munching on grilled chicken, to relate the story of how her front tooth fell out while on a Jet Blue flight two days earlier. A dessert of apple pie prompted conversation of deserting our old ways of thinking, to come up with fresh ideas for the new year, making goals and following through.
With full bellies, most of the family scattered throughout the house, with my nieces and nephew retreating in front of the television while my father and sister carried on a spirited debate about who should receive more legal leeway, Kobe or Michael Jackson.
That left my mom and me with a table full of dishes--and nowhere to go but the kitchen sink. I felt like a trapped rat and immediately started having 'Nam-like flashbacks to that arduous adolescent act, those curse words...dish duty.
Reluctantly, I carried the pile to the sink and began to roll up my sleeves as my mother looked on with a sinister smile on her face. At least it seemed a bit smug to me. Little did I know what she had in store as I began to scour the soiled saucepans. As I turned away to scrape the last plate, my mother disappeared into another room, leaving me to a torture I'd lived over and over growing up. Those dishes, the hot water, the Palmolive...it all brought me back to the days of junior high and not being able to go to bed until the dishes were done. I think I actually began to break out in a cold sweat, when, all of a sudden, I was jerked back to the present by a tap on the shoulder.
As I spun away from the suds, shaking like a Polaroid, I realized that my mother was not alone. My nephew and niece, lips poked out were by her side. And that’s when the cold sweat broke, the blood came rushing back to my extremities…and a smile came across my face.
For today, a new tradition was to begin. My nephew and niece--or 'Buster' and 'Sudsy', as I will hereby refer to them--were introduced to their own private purgatory, one that, if they were like me, would no doubt be much worse than any school discipline or missing tooth could ever be.
And I was free. Free to watch a college football Bowl game on television or to irk my sister by joining my father's side of the still ongoing debate. Dish duty would never come my way again as long as there was a next generation to carry the load.
As the year Two Thousand and More arrived, my mother taught me a valuable lesson that I couldn’t have learned until that day--how to dish out responsibility to those next in line.
Happy New Year to me!
scribbled by Will at 1/03/2005 10:45:00 AM
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I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)
The Write One
Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971. Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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