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11.04.2010

Sometimes The Old Man Got It Right

I don’t mind doing laundry. We don’t even have a dryer. I hang it all in on lines I’ve put up in the crammed space we laughingly call a laundry room or outside when the weather is good. Sorting and hanging and folding is orderly and forces me to slow down for a couple of minutes, while still looking after the family. We never had a dryer when I was growing up, either. My mother had a long line that stretched off the back porch and we hung it out summer or winter. I think the dryer bit the dust one day and she never replaced it.

I don’t have a dishwasher, either. Never have. I mind doing dishes a bit more than laundry because it’s so constantly tedious. When I was a kid there were five kids in the family and we were taught early on that dishes were our collective responsibility. The jobs rotated among us and we always fought over who washed and who dried and who got away with doing the least. One day, my father came home with an automatic dishwasher. The year was 1967 and it was a magical beast, chugging away doing all the dirty work for us. It freed us up for more important pursuits no doubt, as all mechanization at the time was touted to do.

Well, the color got sucked off that jawbreaker real fast and we started to fight over who stacked the machine, who set the table and who could get away with doing the least. After a month of that, the magical machine vanished. I don’t know if it broke or if Dad just removed it. He said, “If they’re going to fight over it anyway they might as well fight over doing the whole damn job.” I’ve never seen one in a house I’ve lived in since.

My dad was eternally practical that way. Whenever he’d take us out to the Dairy Dip, we’d all shout out “I want chocolate! Strawberry! Swirl! Soft Serve!” He’d step up to the window with the list in mind and always come back with all vanilla or all chocolate. “This way there’ll be no arguments over who got what,” he’d say as we all shrugged and figured a treat was a treat and no harm done.

I’ve lived by that example all my life. No reason to sweat the small stuff. After all, there are enough really troubling things that come at us every day in this life. Arguing over the dishwasher or a tumble dryer seems almost like asking for too much.