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Revised 7 December, 2009

Doing Dishes or Where the Butter Does Not Belong

As with most children, my parents expected us to do simple chores so that we could learn how to care for ourselves later in life and learn to accept increasing responsibility according to our capabilities. Thus it was that my sister and I were assigned to do the dishes each day.

Inasmuch as my sister and I never did anything the easy way, there was always a battle over who would wash and who would dry and most importantly, who would get stuck washing "the big black pan" (the cast iron skillet which always seemed to get the dirtiest of all the dishes we used.). She who moved fastest, got to the bathroom first and if properly achieved, usually managed to camp there until all the dishes were done reason being, our instructions were that if you finished your portion of the dishes, you were to help doing the rest until they were done. Thus, the bathroom marathon was phase two of this chore after the initial battle was fought and decided.

At this point, I should describe the room, as it became a focal point in what ensued.

On an earlier occasion, I mentioned that our apartment consisted of two rooms with an outside bathroom that was shared with the business. Our bedroom consisted of one huge room, which was divided by a used tractor shipping crate, said crate being of sufficient size to constitute a wall. (Why they did not just build a wall was a matter of expense and practicality, there being no means of anchoring a wall short of a major construction job.) On either side of this tractor crate were our beds. Mom and Dad's bed was on one side of the crate. Carol had a small roll away bed and I slept on an army cot. Since we were small, it really didn't matter. It was clean, efficient, and served our needs. Our kitchen/living room/dining room made up the other room. The floor was a green flowered piece of linoleum, no doubt picked up cheaply by the prior owners. The walls were green and yellow plaid and clashed violently with the linoleum. The couch was yet another green plaid, which, in turn, clashed with the walls and floor.In short, it was a thing of beauty and a joy forever (or not, depending on your point of view.). Our kitchen cabinets were of "Youngstown" aluminum construction and probably had bits of rust here and there. Our stove was a tiny four-burner stove with the smallest oven I have ever seen, and our refrigerator was, literally, an ice box (the kind you put ice in the top and emptied from the bottom). Since our entire business was pretty much a huge freezer/refrigeration plant, there was no need for a regular refrigerator and the ice man delivered huge blocks of ice once a week, which we kept in an "icehouse", packed in sawdust, out behind the business. I suppose the ice could have been kept in the real freezer, but that space was reserved for the paying customers.

Meanwhile, back at the dishpan, with special note of the flooring, we would pull a few dishes off the table, wash them and move on until the entire table was cleared off and all the dishes cleaned and put away. However, on this particular occasion, we were still putting away food stuff at the same time and I accidentally dropped a bit of butter on the floor.< Being a child, and not particularly prone to doing things properly if it involved effort, I attempted to remove the evidence by rubbing it out of sight on the floor, which, in turn, made that section of the floor slippery. As I began to walk away, there also now being butter on my shoe, the slippery area increased proportionately and therefore, every time one of us walked over to that area we slipped a bit. All of a sudden, doing dishes took on a new momentum, so to speak, and so, every time one of us walked over that way, we doubled our fun and dropped a bit more, rubbed it a bit more into the floor and increased our "skating" area. This increased until we had pretty much buttered the entire floor and therefore, every time we walked to that area, or by now, were sliding to that area, we got up a pretty good head of steam and could slide from one side of the room to the other.

Now just to clarify something as to how we got away with this little oops and slide caper, you need to understand that my parents were on the other side of the apartment door, working diligently and trying to earn a living, trusting that their little cherubs were doing the right and proper thing in doing their chores and acting as responsible little citizens of the world. Their first clue that something was amiss was when we threw all caution to the winds and began sliding in earnest, uttering, "Whee!!!!" each time we had a good slide. At this point, my father decided it was time to find out why we, who battled royally each time assigned to do the dishes, were suddenly finding this chore so much fun.

Imagine now, if you will, the look of surprise when he opened the door, followed by his stepping onto the now extremely slippery piece of linoleum flooring and finding himself on a non-stop collision course with the opposite wall, coming to an abrupt, tail-over-teakettle, landing when reaching same. To say that my father was disturbed at this turn of events, would be a mild understatement. When he finally steamed out with a "who did this?", the "not-me" bird was in full chime. There was a frantic pointing of fingers and utterances of but she did this and she did that, until he had finally heard enough and decided that the only way to deal with this was the logical one we received a long and "in-one-ear-and-out-the-other" lecture and to make sure we got the point, each of us received a bucket and a rag and were ordered to wash the entire floor, while he watched to make sure we didn't miss any. In addition, since we fibbed about our part in the fiasco, as we washed, we were told to loudly proclaim to the world that we had lied by stating, "I'm a little fibber" over and over again, until we got the point.

So picture, if you will, two little girls, ages 6 and 8, sitting on the floor (at a respectable distance from one another to avoid any further battles, i.e. she hit me with the dish rag, or you're on my spot, etc.) with a pint-sized bucket of sudsy water and a rag, scrubbing butter in nice little circles, chanting as we went, "I'm a little fibber" for about an hour and a half, I'm sure you get the picture.

Did we ever do it again? Most assuredly not. Did it stop the battle of doing the dishes? You guessed it,..most assuredly not. It did, however, teach us why food should not be wasted, and made us extremely aware that telling lies was not to be tolerated, even in the most dire situations. It also taught us that when we were having fun doing the dishes, when anyone with sense knew that this chore was not fun, was something best done in silence so one didn't get caught. We never again buttered the kitchen floor, no, not we. We moved on to bigger and better and more creative messes as we grew into adulthood.

One thing my father could say with great certainty, life in our family was never dull.