I grew up on a small farm in Kentucky. Raised by my grandparents, I spent most of my early life reluctantly learning domesticity. I learned about cooking through having to peel potatoes, carrots, other foodstuffs. About laundry through hanging sheets, socks, jeans out on a clothesline. About cleanliness through washing dishes. While we didn’t have a dryer or a dishwasher, I’m quite sure my grandmother would answer that it didn’t matter what we didn’t have. We had me. That was enough to complete any process.
She always reminded us that we could not go to bed with a sink full of dishes. While I didn’t have to wash the dishes every day, my uncle and I divided the days, with some bartering on the side for changes in schedule or adolescent laziness. Rarely, I would ask her if I could wash the dishes first thing the next morning. That request would come after a school day of speech practice, or homework that took longer than usual. It was not a regular request. Maybe that is why she would grant it, tell me to “soak the dishes in the sink,” then expect them all to be washed the next morning. I diligently stacked the cups, tucked the silverware inside of them, balanced those on top of plates and then covered them all in water, silently rejoicing that I had bought myself more time. Momentarily.
The following morning, I’d rise as early as she did (and I do think that the reason I still get up early is both to give myself my own sorts of peace as well as a familiar routine that has been in my bones since birth), wash the dishes, watch the sun come up. Either the radio would be on to NPR or the TV to the local news. I can’t quite remember it now, but I do remember that before or after I began washing the dishes, she would be leaning over the kitchen sink, lost in her own morning meditation, the heat from a cup of tea rising easily through the air. Eventually she’d concede her space at the sink to let me complete my chores and I’d fall into my own rhythm of dishes.
Yesterday, I was fatigued: deep in my bones tired and it was only Monday. I had been dreaming of shrimp and grits all day, though. A relatively easy dish that I thought I could prepare quickly with minimal fussing from E. When he went down for the night, I considered taking a nap before getting back up, but I knew there would be no getting back up if I did.
I climbed out of bed (quite sure that was how a zombie felt) and went to my own sink in my tiny kitchen. The dishes in all sorts of disarray. The water ran as it reached the right temperature and I moved forks and spoons, both my size and E’s size, from sink to dishtowel, followed by plates and pans. Listening to the loop of NPR. Wishing I had a window to look through. Content, finally, with a clean kitchen, dishes piled in a haphazard arrangement for drying. Chores done.