So my dishwasher finally shuffled off to that great appliance warehouse in the sky this weekend. And, as usual with my luck, it went right in the middle of the cycle, between “wash” and “rinse”, leaving my dishwasher full with mucky, obscured water.
Like anyone who has ever owned a dishwasher, even for a short period of time, I thought that this was the ultimate disaster. It was Sunday morning, I was gearing up to make French Toast and bacon for the kids, and we had no dishes left because I forgot to run the dishwasher the night before. It was already 9:30 AM and we had to be out of the house by 11. When you have 2 young kids, life is chaotic enough without having to deal with failing appliances.
As I opened the lukewarm dishwasher, and started to fill the sinks with blasting hot-as-my-hands-can-take-it-without-gloves water, I heard daddy and the kids downstairs screaming with laughter at whatever it was they were doing. And I got pissed. Because I knew, as mom, I would have to end up doing everything myself, as usual.
Once I unloaded the bottom rack into the sink, I heard the thumping of family feet coming up the stairs.
“We’re off to have a bath,” said Daddy, guiding the (little bit stinky to be honest) girl child up the stairs.
In the millisecond between the end of his statement and the next footfall on the stairs, a brainstorm crashed through to my eyeballs and came out of my mouth in the form of:
The house stopped. Here was my chance.
“Can you guys please come and help me dry these, since the dishwasher is dead?”
Daddy, being the helpful guy that he is, said, “Sure. I’ll just take her upstairs, and…”
“No,” I continued, my brilliant idea illuminating my face, “I mean the both of you.”
“Oh, sure,” said Daddy, in one of those parental mind-meld moments. He guided the (little bit stinky) girl child into the kitchen, and handed her a dish towel.
She looked at us as if we had given her a piece of chalk and asked her to illustrate the theory of travelling at the speed of light in less than 30 seconds.
I handed her a metal bowl, “You’ve never dried a dish before, have you?”
She shook her head. (She'll be 7 in January.)
“Well, it’s like when you dry your skin, except the water doesn’t come off as easily. So wipe this til you don’t see any more water, then put it in the cupboard where it goes.”
And for the next 20 minutes, I rinsed; they wiped. Then I wiped. And as we wiped together, I explained to the girl child that, “When Daddy and I were your age, we didn’t have dishwashers. We used to do dishes by hand, like this. And the whole family would have to pitch in and help put the dishes away.”
“This is fun!” the girl child explained, with all sincerity.
As I looked at my kitchen clock, I noticed that only 20 minutes had lapsed. We still had plenty of time for brunch, and a bath before we had to leave. And we had spent real quality time together. It’s funny how all of these appliances have come into our homes to make our lives simpler to give us “family time”, and yet, they seem to divide us further. The dishwasher would only run at night; it’s loud so we can’t talk over it, and we end up going downstairs to stare at the Idiot Box.
The only thing the dishwasher really gave me is more counterspace. Is that a substitute for family time? Not really.
Washing dishes together had us talking, was teaching the children how to handle breakable dishes when wet, and also, teaching that all-important “tidy up” lesson. That’s probably why they still teach dishwashing and linen washing at classic Montessori schools…
Never mind it saves electricity, water, and your dishes actually get clean, instead of having food particles melded to them by a hot dryer that never scrape off.
That being said, you’d think I’d never want another dishwasher again. You’d be wrong about that. After all, I don’t want to spend the time after a dinner party standing over the sink, washing dishes while everyone else gets to have a good time. But maybe we might not use the new one as often. Maybe.