Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Blessing of a Broken Dishwasher

Our dishwasher broke at 1pm on Thanksgiving Day. We had just cleaned up the lunch dishes. The dishwasher was crammed full and it was time to run it and clear the decks for some serious sidedish prep craziness involving all the cousins, my mom, and myself. Now what?

Every year we host Thanksgiving for my family. My cousins arrive from New Jersey and Ohio. My little brother and his family fly in from New Mexico. My parents travel over from Lancaster, and long-time friends from Germany come up from Maryland to celebrate. Everyone contributes to the meal. We’re a family of foodies, so it’s a busy, crazy, loud, happy day in my kitchen. And the dishwasher is a critical piece of the pie (so to speak).
My husband and my brother, both engineers, analyzed the situation. I headed to the barn to saddle horses
and take some of the kids on a trailride, confident that my superman-fix-anything-hubby would have everything sorted out by the time I came back.

We had a cold but beautiful ride and I arrived back ready to jump into negotiations over oven time and temperature, pan distribution, and a million questions that began with, “Where is the….”. Instead I found my cousin elbow deep in suds. No dishwasher and 21 for dinner.

I’m sure you’re all thinking the same thing.
The simple solution would be to use paper plates. Only I’m fundamentally against using paper plates, plastic forks, or styrofoam anything unless it’s a matter of life and death. This wasn’t. Besides, I didn’t have any on hand. And Thanksgiving is a meal most deserving of the good china. I couldn’t fathom eating on anything less. I worried that the masses would overrule me and I would look like an unreasonable tree-hugger if I insisted. Turns out, no one even suggested a quick run out to Walmart (which was no-doubt already open for the “black Friday” shoppers at 3pm on Thanksgiving day). Without skipping a beat, everyone set to work and we got busy cooking and drinking and laughing. We took turns digging out the overstuffed sink. Doing the dishes together led to reminiscing about our annual Thanksgiving celebration that began at Aunt Carline’s over fifty years ago. No dishwasher in her kitchen then either! Of course, we would still eat on the china. Why would we do anything else?

As dinner wrapped up and we all groaned from too much wine and too much food (Three kinds of sweet potatoes! Two stuffings! Two turkeys! Two mashed potatoes! Plus corn pudding, cranberry sauce, oyster dressing, ceasar salad, and amazingly enough homemade crescent rolls this year!), I dragged myself to the sink to start the clean up. But before I could squeeze out one squirt of dishwashing liquid, my Girl-scout leader cousin rounded up the kids and set them to work. I sat back in wonder as the kids, even my kids, rolled up their sleeves and washed every last dish (well, maybe not the baked-on sweet potato gratin pan or the wine glasses still in use).

We have a tradition that began when we first hosted Thanksgiving about twelve years ago. Everyone uses a fabric marker to write what they are thankful for on the long table runner (now three runners) that my mom made. It’s fun to read them each year. “Addie is thankful for the poppy (puppy), neigh-neighs (horses) the ba-ay (baby), blankie and daddy coming home. -2000” (this dictated by one-year-old Addie) and “Ian is thankful for Lego people. -2008” and “I’m thankful for chickens,  snow, trees, and books” (unsigned but you can guess who) plus lots of beautiful thoughts about family and friends and health. There’s a lengthy entry written in German and many illustrations of turkeys.

This year I wrote that I am thankful for a broken dishwasher. It did not slow us down a bit. In fact, if anything, it made Thanksgiving even more fun. It warmed my heart to see the kids lined up by the sink laughing and teasing as they made quick work of so many dishes. Even now as I lament over the cost of the new dishwasher, I’m smiling because I’m so glad it broke on Thanksgiving. Had it broken on any other day, I would never have appreciated the blessing of its passing.

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