was a kid, the only important thing about chores was trying to get
out of them, or at least to get them done as quickly as possible
so that I could move on to more important things like hanging
around and doing nothing. But one of the worst chores was
that of drying dishes. There was no way to hurry it, and
there was no way to get it done early--it had to be done after
dinner, at my mom's pace, when she wanted to wash. Dishes
couldn't be dried until they had been washed and rinsed, of
biggest problem was that after dinner came one of the most
important times in an American family's day--Prime Time. I
was fortunate, and I wasn't nearly as interested in television as
most of the people I knew, but there were still some shows that I
enjoyed, and doing dishes for an entire week meant that I would
pretty much miss a show or two. My mom was good about trying
to finish quickly when she knew we really wanted to see something,
but sometimes we would be going to the kitchen door, looking in on
the TV with a plate in our hands, then going back for the next
plate with the hope that we wouldn't miss an "important"
retrospect, though, those times doing the dishes were probably the
most important part of growing up for me. That was the time
when my mom and I would talk, with no real distractions.
family was neither affectionate nor communicative--life went on
whether we expressed our feelings or not--and my father's
alcoholism put up many barriers to communication, for there were
just too many things that we couldn't talk about at all.
parents both had many fears, too, which made showing affection
very difficult for them. And usually there were plenty of
distractions around which made communication unnecessary,
especially the TV set. Why talk when there was plenty of
passive entertainment to be seen?
the dishes with my mom--when there was nothing "good" on
TV--gave us the opportunity to talk to each other. We had
the opportunity to share some thoughts and feelings. My mom
could ask me how school was going, and we could talk about my
grandparents and how life was for her when she was growing
up. Since my father was in the military, we could talk about
the different places that we had lived, and how this place
compared to the others, and what we liked and didn't like about
each place. We could talk about the music and programs and
movies that we liked and didn't like, and sometimes we even talked
about my father's alcoholism and the effects it was having on all
hour or so every third week provided us with the only time that I
could recall that we actually connected as human beings, sharing
our selves with each other. I would grow up to have a lot of
problems with interpersonal relationships, as most adult children
of alcoholics do, but I can't help but think that the time I spent
drying dishes as my mother washed them provided a spark that
allowed me to see a bit of light when my problems sometimes became
overwhelming. It was important to me to be able to share my
feelings with someone who was going through many of the same
things I was--moving often, losing friends, a lack of stability,
fear of my father getting drunk again, a completely uncertain
future. We could connect on a human level, rather than a
mother-child level, and I learned more about my mother then than
at any other time.
I have to admit, I even looked forward to doing the dishes.
I wasn't big on sharing my feelings, but I often found the
experience to be very relaxing and very fulfilling. I often
finished the chore feeling much closer to my mother, and that was
a feeling that I needed very badly to experience.
thank you, mom, for insisting that I do the chore when it was my
turn. I thank you for sharing yourself and allowing me to
share myself. We were both going through trying times, and
I'm glad that we were able to find an opportunity to connect.