[Here’s an entry I found from last month, jammed between two Norton Anthologies of English Literature. I’ll explain why I have these once I can figure out why I bought a thirteen-volume, 1970s edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.]
In our home, the problem of dishes has a simple solution: the cook doesn’t clean. If Kelly cooks, I wash the dishes. If I were to cook, Kelly would wash the dishes. When Ian can reach the sink, he will wash; I will supervise.
I’m happy to do it. There’s a part of me that enjoys cleaning plates, and the other parts are grateful to have such a loving wife, and mother to my son. Besides, with a dishwasher, all I really do is rinse.
But in washing dishes, as in all other things, I am imperfect. While I stand at the sink, fists on hips and towel thrown over my shoulder like the Red Baron’s scarf, my eyes scour the kitchen for things to clean: an empty glass on the table, saucepan on the stove, macaroni on the floor. Nothing escapes my attention, and I fall onto the couch with a satisfied sigh.
‘Honey,’ Kelly’s voice calls from elsewhere.
‘Did you mean to leave this knife in the sink?’
‘And the spatula?’
‘And the…’ By now I’m on my feet, annoyed and most likely rolling my eyes. I’ve cleaned everything. I’m sure of it; I was there. Yet there they are: the knife, the spatula, and the saucepan lid. Did you know that spatulas can laugh?
Kelly thinks this selective washing is hilarious; I’m simply dumbfounded. I just don’t see the dishes, even if I rinse them, bundle them together, and move them to wash a plate. They don’t exist. It’d be easy to think that my wife is hoarding dirty dishes in the pantry, just to mess with my head; it’s easier to think that I’m an idiot.
Do I lapse into unconciousness at the sound of running water? Dawn-induced amnesia? Maybe I have a second personality who’s too self-important to bother with the minutiae of paring knives and potato peelers. ‘A cheese-grater? You’ve got to be kidding.’
Or, am I simply in too much of a hurry?
Ian has the same problem with toys. Our sometime rule of toys is that Ian must put one away if he wants to play with another. This is easily done with a firetruck or aircraft carrier. He’s less inclined to follow this rule for wooden blocks and Tinker Toys.
His initial burst of energy is quick and efficient. Grab, dump. Grab, dump. Grab, dump. Next to the chair, under the cat, behind my ear. And then he stops, suddenly, as if I accidentally sat on his remote. He sits on his heels and smiles. Done! Except that there are blocks all around him; in front of him. He crushes blocks on his way to the toy closet, and sweeps them away to open the door.
I point. ‘Ian? There? See, you missed a block.’ He looks at my finger; tumbleweeds roll through the den. ‘No, no. There! Look there!’ Finally, he follows my finger and sees the block. He blinks and looks at me. ‘Well? Pick it up, please.’ He does; the others remain.
I’ve asked other wives and husbands. So far, I’m patient zero. Either Ian and I have problems, or my chromosomes have some prepubescent gene that’s still waiting to be turned off. Kelly has to live with Ian for at least fifteen more years. Me, she has for life.
Until a cure is found, I’m washing the forks first.