07.31.14 Its the last day of July. Tomorrow, it will be August, already. In a few days, The Main Event will happen when all the kids and grandkids and their friends arrive, and fill the house, spill out on to the porch, tumble down the lawn, splash and float in the lake, lounge on the new dock. We are in the final stages of clearing the beach and filling the refrigerators. There will be a lot of cooking and a lot of dishwashing with 17-21 people eating their three squares each day!
I’ve been doing a little informal survey this summer by asking people what comes to mind when I say, “you wash I’ll dry.” You have to be of a certain age for it to mean anything. As Sarah told me, “that’s what dishwashers are for.” But, among several of my friends, it evokes strong memories of doing dishes with sisters and the delineation of duties in their families when they were young. We’ve discussed how it can sometimes be a statement about power relationships–it seems the most controlling person does the washing while the other one ends up doing the drying. What I find myself thinking about is the summer I was 10 or 11 years old and my family rented a big old house on Grand Lake in Colorado. Our aunts and uncles and hoards of cousins from Ohio and Washington state stayed with us, and while it was probably only one week, it seemed like an entire summer, and I often think that experience is part of what’s brought me to living in a lakehouse in Montana. The rented house had an enormous kitchen and the silverware drawer must have had enough cutlery for 50 people. My Mom and the Aunties did the dishes in the dwindling evening light which bounced off the lake, and we kids and Dads took evening boat rides, waterskiing on cold, silver water which finally was calm in our cove.
There is very little I truly remember about that house ,and time, except for the calm, cold lake in the evenings, the cool mountain air, and that silverware drawer full to the brim. But this summer, when I am both washing and drying dishes back in the butler’s pantry, and the cool night air flows down from the hills behind the house into the open window, I’ve been thinking about my Mother, who would always be the one who washed; except that week at Grand Lake. Aunt Mary Guy, the quiet and serene wife of Uncle Bill, my Mom’s oldest and dearest brother, did the washing, and Mom and her sister, Aunt Mary, did the drying. I’ll never know the intricacies and complexities of those ancient relationships. But, standing at the sink as dusk takes over the sky, I am part of that family, remembering the best of our days, when we were young and intact. You wash I’ll dry.