July 28, 2007

A clean deception

Every now and then when my hands are soapy and look like logs, I scowl at our dishwasher.

Nothing about it is really scowl-worthy. It's actually a pretty sad piece of equipment. The buttons actually stand out from the appliance, a la 1930's cash register, and the plastic cover falls off every now and then when our cat, Suzie, slides into it when she gets excited about linoleum.

It's not the appliance itself that inspires a scowl; it's the story.

Washing dishes started as a fun event. "Mommy, can I help?" She thought I was angelic and domestic.

And then I wanted to quit, but not so fast; it became my job. In our old house, we didn't have a dishwasher, so Katie and I switched off nights. However, when we were searching for a new house, we gravitated toward prospects with shiny faucets and power sprayers, but even more so to those with dishwashers.

For a while we used the dishwasher in our new home. The sparkle of Jet-Dry and the dash of Cascade funneling into the small holding tank for deployment was a sight sweeter than any yellow-gloved hand I'd seen. And then, suddenly, my mother reported that the dishwasher was broken.

Though Katie and I were crushed, we resumed our washing round-robin, but not without our quabbles about whose turn it was each night. Years went by filled with family dinners and holidays all fraught with cooking, and inescapably, encrusted cookware, silverware, crockery, Tupperware, plates, bowls, mugs and glasses.

But the fact could not be avoided: the dishwasher was broken and no one seemed compelled to fix it, least of all two waterlogged children, too consumed with Lisa Frank stationery to truly invest.

And then one day, not too long ago, I heard a gurgling in the kitchen. The sound was controlled, though, and made me think of hearing a favorite song for the first time in a long time.

The dishwasher was running without care. I believe my mother was even multi-tasking as she washed dishes electronically.

We'd been betrayed. The dishwasher, my mother confessed, had never been broken.

"It didn't hurt you and your sister to wash dishes," she said. "It was using too much hot water."

At least that was her defense.

I just think back to all those times when my sister and I would fight about whose turn it was to wash dishes and think that she knew the whole time that the dishwasher wasn't broken. She was just trying to teach us responsibility and compromise.

I still scowl at the dishwasher. After about a week of washing with our as-it-turns-out unbroken appliance, the machine broke again, probably from disuse. My dad quickly disconnected the water supply, and spiders began spinning in the spout.

The dishwasher is now a space eater in our kitchen. It's also a conversation piece, like our sparrow magnet chimney.

I still wonder about the dishwasher these days, when I'm up to my elbows in Dawn and speghetti sauce. Why did he so quickly disconnect the water?

Then I let my mind rest, warmed by the thought that when I come home someday I'll hear that ancient appliance gurgling once again, my parents in the kitchen laughing about how they put one over on their children for over half their lives.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at July 28, 2007 2:07 PM | TrackBack

That's a good one.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at July 28, 2007 6:47 PM
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