Some time before Thanksgiving last year my dishwasher went kaput. I opened the door one morning to unload the previous night's dinner dishes and noticed detergent baked onto the bottom of the dishwasher floor. Along with last night's dinner baked onto my dishes, glasses, pots, and pans. Apparently the tube thingy that comes out of the middle to spray water everywhere had snapped. So instead of actually washing the dishes with hot water, it simply baked at high heat everything I hadn't rinsed off. Note to self: Mom was right - rinse the dishes thoroughly before placing them in the dishwasher.
After fiddling with it a few times, we determined this was something a little more advanced than a do-it-yourself superstore fix. I called a reputable appliance guy in our area and after his assessment and estimate, we realized we could replace the dishwasher for about the same price as repairing the existing one. One problem: with my husband and I both unemployed, it didn't matter how comparable the costs were - neither repair or replace was an option. Now, let me say I love to cook. I really do. But I love it a lot more when I can stuff all the evidence into the dishwasher, press a couple of buttons, and walk away.
So it was with mixed emotions that I began washing dishes at the sink. And let me just tell you, a sink doesn't hold as much as a dishwasher. It seemed like every time I turned around the sink was full again. Yes, I enlisted the help of our kids to gather dishes, help rinse, and put away (I'm very particular about the washing part). But it's still a time consuming process and something about standing over the sink really bothers my lower back. Not to mention, I have dropped and broken more dishes from slippery dish washing liquid than I care to admit (maybe a Freudian way of justifying less elaborate meals?) Anyway, after a particularly big meal one evening - roast in the crock pot, potatoes, carrots, green beans, biscuits and gravy - Richard half-heartedly said, "I'll do the dishes tonight. You cooked a nice, big meal. It's my turn." Woohoo! I was out of the kitchen before the kids took their last bite of biscuits.
A few minutes later, feeling a little guilty about taking such great delight in my mini-vacation from the kitchen, I walked back to the sink and began rinsing the growing pile of now soapy dishes and glasses. At first we just stood there, side by side, my husband washing and me rinsing. And then Richard, never one to be quiet for long, started making small talk. Nothing major, simply news of the day or something he had heard on the radio or something about the kids. The conversation started flowing, moving seamlessly between us. And before we knew it the dishes were done. A few nights later he helped me do the dishes again. And so the pattern has continued. There have been a few nights when Richard and Rachel have taken clean-up duty. I think there may have been more soap sud battles than actual dish washing but it was great to hear them laughing from the other room. Stephen has helped a few times but usually ends up asking for something else to eat, making more dirty dishes. You see where this is going, don't you?
My point is this: sometimes the unexpected, even aggravating circumstances in our lives create an open door for us to discover a whole new way to connect with one another. The dishwasher is still broken, and I still do the bulk of the clean-up after dinner, but I may wait a while to replace it. That broken dishwasher has given me a new place, and a new way, to connect with my family. And I love it.