Tabatha Wharton


{musings of an aging millennial trope}

Grace, By Way of Dirty Dishwater.

I told the listing agent that I wanted a dishwasher. A garage and no carpet would be nice, but dishwasher was really the clincher. As a single mom, I'd said, I have better ways I'd like to spend my time than doing the dishes.

Most of the listings that appeared afterwards included a dishwasher. Not like I don't know how to reconfigure a kitchen to fit one, mind you, but it would just be one less hassle, one less project, to just already have one.

My father is helping me find a new home. Due to a legal technicality, I am losing my home in the summer. It's a great deal of why I slowly dismantled my DIY home improvement blog -- although I am sure to have new adventures ahead of me, looking back on the eight years spent making the place I currently reside into a home for my family grew too painful, too heavy. So I am starting all over again, this time to manage a homestead alone.

The dishes haunt my dreams. The sheer amount of little rainbow-colored plastic plates and bowls and character-branded cheap cups that can accumulate in just a few hours' time boggles my mind. Cooking three meals a day, from scratch, leaves behind a warzone across my stove and counters and in the sink pans pile up like ... well, a lot like the cacophony of shoes at the front door despite the attempt at organization I doggedly enforce.

And then, there was January.

While I spent the better part of two weeks in and out of Hospice and then in and out of funeral homes and family members' homes both near and far, the dishes still accumulated. My children's father assisted with some, but not all. He washed the ones the kids would use, and the ones he used ... but pans lingered on the far side of the sink, patiently waiting for their cleansing. Then I became ill, with friends and family coming and going as I laid on the couch or in bed barely conscious, and the dishes multiplied.

The kids' father grew weary. He stopped washing much of anything, arguing about what actually "needed" cleaned and yes, yes their sandwich containers for lunch do need washed as they're the only ones they have, the others have broken lids or cracks that let fluids in or out.

So they piled. The smelled. They grew.

And I washed. And washed. And washed.

I would stand weary, barely upright again, taking breaks to sit down and catch my shallow breath. I would fill the sink with scalding water and leave it teaming with dishes and bubbles to soak to come back later to scrub and rinse and play Jenga with casserole dishes and coffee pot parts on the drying rack, only to drain the sink to fill it again, the porcelain walls still radiating soft heat from it's last occupants. I would spend 45 minutes, an hour in one spot, hunkered down, when my children would dejectedly ask if I were finished yet, because I promised to watch a movie or read a book or play a game with them -- and I would abandon post, my mom guilt for being absent in one way or another over the past month overshadowing the dismantled water bottles floating in the tepid soapy basin.

I would get so close and realize I still had laundry to do and pets to feed and clean up after and things to attend to and I would tell myself hey, that's not too bad, you can tackle that tomorrow but tomorrow brought another onslaught of metal and plastic and porcelain strewn about every free surface and my dehydrated, peeling hands would recoil in protest to their seemingly constant abuse.

And I would take a deep breath and grant myself grace. Grace because no, this, all of this, isn't a job one person was meant to do, alone. Grace, because I was grieving quite deeply even before my grandfather died and the sheer amount of loss that surrounds me these days might as well be clouds of stone. Grace, because the kids are little and don't quite yet know better and I haven't been the best at showing them because I am impatient with menial tasks.

Grace, because they will still be there in the morning, or tomorrow, or however long it takes for me to tackle this one neverending chore.

Or until I walk into the kitchen and find my six-year-old son on his step-stool, rinsing his own plate. Or my five-year-old daughter asks to help scrub the pans in the sinkwater because she wants to learn how to be more helpful.

Or I ask my son to put the dishes from the rack away as I cook dinner and I quietly marvel at not only his compliance, but how well he's been paying attention as he carefully places colanders and glass measuring cups back in their designated places -- and how he tucks away the things he's less sure of, operating on his own plane of logic that isn't too terribly hard to understand, once you notice the patterns he created and followed.

Grace, because it is always found in the small things, like these simple gestures from these innocent babes, and I have much to be grateful for.

This past weekend, I was able to again get to the point of just a few pans left to soak, this time just from the day's culinary efforts instead of the potentially weeks-old specimens I had been desperately trying to cycle through in reverse-chronological order.

And this evening, with just a day and a half's worth of dishes as the challenge, I finally washed the last dirty pan, left from yesterday's bacon frying for our small Sunday family brunch. I scrubbed the sink basins of their various deposits, wiping up any excess gunk that had accrued around the edges of the drains. I stood back and admired the site of the white sheen of the empty sink, glistening ever-so-slightly.

In other realms of my home, there is still much work to be done -- recovery from a month of disaster, preparations for a big move and the end of my and our era under this roof, and the mundane endless cycling of dishes and laundry and cat boxes, oh my. There is much culling, much sacrifice and yes, much scrubbing and cleaning, that lies in my immediate future.

But tonight, tonight it is just grace. Grace because I will get there, if even for a brief moment, and it will in those moments feel so shiny and clean ... as every rebirth should.

This post originally appeared on Tabatha, Etc.