Monday, September 5, 2016

Dishing It Out

As modern conveniences go, I think the dishwasher is really the overlooked work-horse/miracle of the latter half of the twentieth century. Sure, washing dishes isn't that difficult or time consuming, but as any siblings that grew up without a dishwashing machine know, there are few occasions that bring boredom and resentment into a toxic half-hour quite like being made to wash and dry the dishes together. It can bring you closer, that quiet time alone in the kitchen to chat and pass the time, or, more likely, foments a bitter contest of wills that will fester into a lifetime spiteful resentment, which usually only ends when one of you moves out. 

My family got a dishwasher when we moved into a house that had one, in 1973. Before this, my parents did not  make my brother and I wash or dry the dishes after dinner, reasoning that it was faster, cheaper and easier on everyone if they did not. But we were all still thrilled to have a dishwasher. I'm pretty sure my mother bought the house for that alone. And dishwashers were not a ubiquitous thing in 1973; our Harvest Gold specimen was still worthy of note at that time. Consumer goods changed quickly in the 70s, and pretty soon dishwashers were standard. 
And I grew up in a house with a dishwasher and took it totally for granted.

The Mister did not grow up in a house with a dishwasher, and our first house when we got married did not have a dishwasher, either. You see where this is going?

The Mister and I didn't live together before we were married, and despite knowing each other for 10 years by the time we tied the knot, and having spent countless hours in each other's company, there were still a few surprises for us when we actually shared the same living space. Like, the fact, that I use about 40 spoons to cook a dinner, and we each use 120 glasses every damn day, and the Mister doesn't actually put anything in the sink, he just likes to arrange the used dishes jauntily around the edge, so that when someone want to use the sink she has to navigate around the obstacles, lest everything go crashing and breaking into said sink. We lived in that house for 4 years, and although I got used to only using 20 spoons to make the dinner, the lack of a dishwasher was always a bone of contention. (Believe me, I tried to figure out a way to put a dishwasher in that kitchen, but it was impossible. The only place to put it was bang in the middle of the room, which  meant jumping over it to get to the bathroom.) 

We had very different ideas of how to deal with the plethora of dishes, particularly baby bottles, that a family generates through the day: I thought that we should wash them as we go, having a drying rack constantly sitting beside the sink, taking up valuable counter space. The Mister would rather keep one of our two sinks with a few inches of water in it all the time, so that you could put things in it "to soak", which meant that, sooner or later, someone was going to have to put their hand into that grey, cold, yucky water to pull the plug out and wash the dishes. It was an ongoing battle, and I can assure you, for two grown people with jobs and morgages and responsible lives, we were shamefully childish about who that someone was going to be. 

The house we live in now came with a dishwasher. I nearly cried with gratitude when we first came though the place. That and the en suite bathroom meant that I didn't care if it came with a roof, we were going to buy this house.

Now the battle about the dishwasher revolves about loading it. The Mister has demonstrated a unique and masterful proficiency in loading the dishwasher; he can fit in approximately 150% more dishes than the rest of us. We think the dishwasher is full and ready to be turned on, and the Mister gets at it and there is an entire empty rack when he is done. I tell you, as Fairly Mild Super Powers go, it's a beauty. 
The problem is (for him, anyway) that now we all know how good he is at it, and we hardly bother any more. The girls and I fling in dishes willy-nilly, secure in the knowledge that the Mister will come along and make everything peachy keen again. The Mister isn't a fan of this system, obviously, but his attempts to teach us how to load the dishwasher have thus far proved fruitless. We simply don't have the talent. (Or, lets be honest, the interest.) 

The Mister likes to run the dishwasher late at night, when the water and electricity rates are cheaper, which means that I wake up in the morning to a dishwasher full of clean dishes (YAY!) that has to be emptied, (BOO!) This is a First World Problem of the first order, because I timed myself once and it took me 10 minutes to empty the dishwasher. Ten whole minutes. (I'm such a whiner...can you imagine explaining to your great-grandmother what a chore it is to put the clean dishes away that you didn't have to clean yourself??She would, rightly, slap you.)

I'm hope that there are siblings and marriages and all kinds of relationships that have been saved by the advent of the dishwasher. I'm pretty sure mine is one of them.

Friday, September 2, 2016


It doesn't matter how long you've been out of school, or even if your kids are out of school, somehow the arrival of September means that fun and games are all over and it's back to business and, by god, it is time to stop messing around and start being constructive again.

When the evenings get notably shorter and the mornings are a little fresher and the peaches and corn are ending their season, I get a bit of a twinge in my stomach, and a feeling like something pleasant is about to end, and something less pleasant is about to start and I had better gear up for it.

And then I remember: my life does not change one little, tiny bit after Labour Day. Like, not at all, I'm totally off the hook. I have absolutely nothing, whatsoever to feel anxious about. And yet, there is some small part of my lizard brain that continues to quietly gnaw at me: "you'd best be getting on with it; shit's about to go down.".

Sure, my children are going back to school in a few weeks, but they are both in university now, they hardly need me to sort them out. Thing 1 is going into her 4th year; she's an old hand at this. Thing 2 is just starting her university career, but she's going to school here in town, so we dont' have to move her anywhere, and Thing 1 and her other friends are far more able to help her negotiate the newness of school; I'm only on the sidelines, chauffering and making dinner. Clearly, I'm a secondary character in this movie.

So, I wonder, why my psyche is determined to make me sit up and pay attention to September. Perhaps growing up in a house of teachers, where Labour Day was a calm before the storm, with a low level hum of anxiety thrumming through the house. Or maybe because, for so many years of going to school myself, the first day of school meant the advent of so many particulars that were going to make or break the better part of the coming year. I remember going to university on one first day of school to find that all my classes had been moved and re-scheduled, and I ended up with so many conflicts that I had an entirely blank timetable. Which meant I had to "find" enough classes that a) I wanted to take, b) I qualifed to take, and c) had enough room in them for me to take. And that's how I ended up with credits in  Music Appreciation and Ancient and Medieval Warfare.

I have to also remind myself that, just because summer holidays are over, does not mean that summer is over. We have at least another month of summer weather to contend with. (For some reason, the retail industry insists on  altering reality , and selling nothing but denim, tweed and wool for "Back to School" clothing. It's well into the upper 20s here in September, a fact conveniently forgotten by clothing sellers. The Mister's birthday is September 19th, and I can tell you, we've had plenty of birthdays where it was way to hot to make a cake for him. The poor man had to make do with ice-cream cake. First World Problems at it's finest.) I can enjoy heat and humidity and sunshine for another while longer.

September has it's own charms, and I do really like this month. I like the subtle change in the weather, the fresher mornings and the cooler evenings. The apples and pears are in season, and after a few months of bar-b-ques and salads, I look forward to making the occasional dinner in the oven. Even though I'm not particularly enamored of "pumpkin spice everything" for the next month or so, I will enjoy one or two things on the roster.  I can do without the pumpkin spice vodka, or the pumpkin spice burritos, or the pumpkin spice toothpaste. (Can we be clear, though, "pumpkin spice" stuff is really just "spice"'s nutmeg and cinnamon and ginger and allspice. No one is in it for the "pumpkin" part.)

I'm trying to embrace the best of September, the part where my life continues on without very many changes, and all the changes there are are entirely within my control. And, really the best part: where I don't have to go to school ever again.