My mom (right) and aunt doing the dishes before I was ever even thought of.
Doing the dishes isn’t particularly Appalachian–people wash up after meals everywhere–but it struck me that characters in my books often have great conversations over dish washing. Why is that? Well, probably because I’ve been part of many a washing up chat.
There’s something about the camaraderie of one person washing while another dries and puts away. I prefer the washing. There’s something satisfying about taking a stack of dirty dishes and transforming them into a sparkling array of tableware. (I feel the same way about laundry–it’s almost like the things are new again.)
Growing up, doing the dishes–especially after a family meal–was part of the event. It was generally a task undertaken by the women in the house, and there was plenty of talk to go with the suds and hot water. Of course, there are pitfalls–forks not quite clean and bowls in the wrong cupboard–put it’s worth it for the fellowship.
Here’s a dish washing scene from Appalachian Serenade–my novella–which is still available for free download.
That evening Delilah washed the supper dishes while Charlotte dried and put them away. She tried to think of a subtle way to ask after Robert Thornton, but her sister saved her the trouble.
“Did you see that Robert has started carrying those Occident cake mixes? I can’t believe anyone would resort to that. As if it were so very difficult to bake a cake.”
“I didn’t notice.” Delilah wasn’t interested in debating mixes over home cooking. “I did notice that not much has changed around the store over the past fifteen years. I would’ve thought Robert would want to put his own stamp on the place.”
“Oh Robert.” Charlotte flipped her hand in the air. “He’s more interested in socializing and carrying on with everyone who steps foot through the door. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised it occurred to him to even carry a convenience food like cake mix. Maybe he’s had more success with that instant coffee than folks let on.”
Delilah wracked her brain to think how to steer this conversation in the direction she wanted it to go. “Maybe he needs a woman’s touch.” She blushed and hoped Charlotte would assume it was the heat from the dishwater. “In the store, I mean.”
“Wouldn’t hurt, but I know for a fact more than one woman has set her cap for him and it’s all come to nothing. We thought he’d marry Susanne Ross for sure, but something must have gone wrong. Last I heard she was married with four kids.” She dried the last pot and draped her wet cloth over a hook beside the stove. “Gracious, Robert must be getting close to fifty by now. If no one’s caught him yet, I doubt it’ll happen.” She wrapped an arm around her sister’s waist. “Now if it’s eligible bachelors you’re after, you might consider Joe Miller.”
Delilah elbowed Charlotte. “I’m most certainly not interested in Joe Miller. His ears stick out past his shoulders.”
Charlotte giggled and covered her mouth. Delilah risked a look at her sister and caught the giggles. They stood in the kitchen laughing like girls and Delilah felt a bit of the pain of the past decade slide from her shoulders. Maybe she did have a future. Maybe she could find another husband—a good one—and start a family. Maybe it wasn’t too late after all.