I want to give homage to the dirty dishes.
But first, I want to complain about them.
There is always a lot of them in this house. They manifest like forehead wrinkles and are equally unwanted. We are only three: husband, wife, daughter, but we seem to produce daily quantities of dishes rivaling that of a small clown troop who eats each bite of each meal on separate plates with separate silverware.
Wait. Maybe we are a small clown troop. It feels like that some days.
I digress. Because what owner of a kitchen doesn’t know what I’m talking about? You clean up the kitchen before you make dinner because you can’t possibly make dinner unless you clean up because all the dishes and cooking utensils you need are dirty from last night’s dinner and then the kitchen is sparkly and briefly like Martha Stewart’s and you feel you’ve arrived and have control over not only your kitchen but your life, your actual life and you start to make grandios plans about writing a book or getting a tattoo or having another kid because ahem…just look at the kitchen…you’ve got it all under control! and then you commence in making Egg Masala and soon the kitchen glows and gleams but this time its because its covered in a fine dusting of tumeric and cluttered with spatulas, baking sheets and pan lids and Martha Stewart is somewhere vomiting a little in her mouth because you are so slovenly, so barbaric, so incompable of “washing as you go.”
Sigh. So much for writing a book.
So you eat dinner, you halfheartedly scrub a sauce pan, a whisk. You tell yourself you’ll do the rest tomorrow and proceed to stumble around the house in search of something more fun to do. Like reading a Martha Stewart magazine, a little ritual we, in this house, like to call buying the my-life-can-be-like-that lie.
But remember how Martha was vomiting in her mouth just a minute ago? The dishes are still in the sink. You’re life can’t be like that.
And really, you don’t want it to be. I’d be afraid to sit down in most of the pictures I see in her magazines.. I usually have dog hair or gravel road dust on my pants, sawdust on my shoes and various food stains like avocado/yogurt/blueberries (thank you Sparrow) on my shirt. I’d get some of my slovenliness on her upholstery and then she’d yell at me! I think it would be annoying to be in a house where I felt fear for my very life at sitting on a couch. And, since I like to project, I’m going to go ahead and say most people would be annoyed to be in that scenario. Therefore, I promise to never have a house where a guest has to be afraid to sit down. Come one, come all and come as your are! This house is so messy, even your messiness can’t mess it up!
But there’s still those dishes. Pesky, little plates and bowls not getting any cleaner. In fact, the longer they sit, the harder they are to clean. (We don’t have a dishwasher, in case you haven’t figured that out!)
So here’s where I jump to the homage part. While washing a typical sink full of drudgery the other day, I picked up a red ceramic bowl and proceeded to scrub the dried oatmeal off it. And then I remembered the scenario around the oatmeal: Sparrow and I sitting at the kitchen table, in our jammies. She was scooping coconut oil onto her oatmeal and remarking how funny it was the coconut oil can be used on your cereal and on your skin. And then she was spooning some oil onto her hand. And then she was rubbing it on her face and neck and accidently into her hair and she was super shiny and super happy. And suddenly, I was THRILLED to be washing that red ceramic bowl because I was laughing and in love with my shiny daughter.
And then I picked up the plate that held my husband’s scrambled eggs that morning. And I loved him and his habit of always saying he doesn’t have time for breakfast when he actually does and then agreeing to a plate of eggs at the very last minute when he actually doesn’t have time. And I praised God for him and his dedication to me and Sparrow and our life.
And the spoon stirred the tea with Corrie.
And the fork picked up the piece of meat that fell on the floor that I put in the dog’s bowl which made the dog wag his tail in his sleep which is so cute.
Now, I realize it’s not practical or possible to do this for every dish, every time. Believe me, I am not anywhere near that idyllic. But it is possible some times, for some dishes. If dish duty can be a time of reflection, of gratitude, of intentional focus on what is beautiful and rich in character, a sink full doesn’t seem so bad, right?
The way I see it, our moments are borrowed, our very breath lent to us by the Giver. I don’t want to waste a single breath or moment in a huff of annoyance over a chore that is as much a part of living as breathing itself. I want to honor the dirty dish for what it can offer me if I let it: a rare opportunity to thumb back through the pages of my day and realize how grateful I am for every dish there is to clean.