Who Likes Dirty Dishes?
January 1983

“Who Likes Dirty Dishes?” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 71

Who Likes Dirty Dishes?

As I looked at the stack of dirty dishes, my good spirits fell. “Who likes dirty dishes? Not me!” I thought. First I began to put away the dishes that my son, Rick, had done the night before. A pretty good job, I mused. But the bread pans were still greasy. I added them to the dishes that needed washing. Fifteen-year-old boys don’t like doing dishes. If I hurried, he would never know that I had washed the pans over again. I could tell him that he had done a good job and that would make him feel good.

I plunged my hands into the hot, soapy water, grimly washing each milk glass and each bowl with cereal dried onto it. Grabbing a handful of silverware, I dropped them into the sink. A pink plastic spoon, specially curved for tiny toddler’s hands, came floating to the top of the bubbles. I smiled as I remembered. It had been given to me for a baby girl at my last baby shower almost two years ago. I almost laughed out loud as I thought of our sturdy little boy, my fifth boy in a row, spooning soup into his mouth as fast as he could with a girl’s pink spoon.

As I started to wash the rest of the silverware, other pleasant memories surged through my mind. The sharp, serrated bread knife reminded me of the happy hands of my children reaching for thick slices of hot bread to butter and spread with homemade peach jam. I wondered if one particular knife was the one eight-year-old Jimmy used this morning to butter the bread that he dunked into his hot cereal every time he thought I wasn’t looking. Maybe this spoon was the one that Franky had used to put enough sugar in his cereal to make it almost as sweet as he can be when he gives me a tight hug and a quick kiss.

As I washed the almost-clean bread pans over again, I recalled the large, strong hands of my tall son doing his work in the house but longing to be astride the horse he had lovingly trained from a bucking colt into a gentle grey friend.

I picked up the cake pan that had been filled the night before last by eleven-year-old Abie. He made a cake so that his granddaddy could take a piece in his lunch the next day. As I washed out the crumbs and scraped off the chocolate frosting a thoughtful seventeen-year-old sister had made to top the cake, I remember the effort Laurie had made that night to get dinner for the boys, her granddad, me, and herself. Laurie, who loves to sing, play the piano, and sew beautiful clothing for herself and others, ignored her own loves as she worked steadily to fill the pans and dishes to feed the family and relieve a mother who was ill.

My last pan to wash was the one I had used that day to heat last night’s homemade soup. My mind lingered over the sweet and lavish compliments my husband had made as he buttered the homemade bread and eagerly spooned down the soup.

What a priceless gift each dirty dish can be! Each one tells me that someone in my family daily fills a need in all of us. Every dish tells me that my husband works long and hard to fill each pot, pan, plate, and glass, so that my family’s temporal needs can be met. Each one tells me of the love and unity our family shares.

So who likes dirty dishes? I do! Utahna Young, Roosevelt, Utah