Dishes

He works at a tech startup. Nice job, good pay. He stares at emails flooding his inbox all day. On some level, he laments it. But on the other hand, he rejoices. He thinks to himself, “Better this than Mother’s chores.”

Back at home someone has to do chores. And who better than Sally, his little sister of four? Whereas he is bold and brave, she is timid and says, “Mom? I don’t like dishes.”

And what can Mother say? For children are meant to behave. Her heart is anxious, all she can think of is how hard she has worked. Oh, how I have toiled! Oh, how I have raised these two kids! And how little my eldest son of mine understands. How little he gives, I am here alone, how can life be so unjust?

But those words don’t come out of Mother’s mouth. No, how could she betray her weakness to her youngest daughter? “Do as your told.” That will suffice.

The next day our Sally, heart full of pain, goes to her Mother. Dishes again? She asks, “Why Mother? Do I need to do the dishes?” But Mother only shakes her head and points at the dishes again.

So day after day, month after month, Sally and Mother grow further apart. They know not how, or why, or when, only that for some reason, their hearts don’t feel well fed.

Sally is 18 now, college just past the short August Summer. There’s excitement in her heart, yet shame in it too. Her Mother will be alone soon. Sally and Mother eat dinner at the table. They don’t chit-chat or small-talk, just food and dishes after. Dishes… “Mom?” Sally looks up from her food, hesitates. Mother looks up, her face sullen, tired, the look of an old woman. “I’m heading to college soon.” A hopeful gaze, anything to ease the pain Mom!

No response. Some idle moving of food on the plate.

Sally thinks. What could have happened all these years? Why does Mother not answer? Is there something wrong with me? I don’t hate my Mom, but what can be done? All I can do are the dishes… dishes… “Who will do the dishes when I’m gone Mom?”

No response. Mother stands up.

“Mom?”

College comes. Sally leaves, hopeful. A new life awaits, she forgets about the dishes. She meets boys. Some of them are nice. Some of them are mean. Four years pass. College ends. She marries one of those boys. Maybe not the hottest, maybe not the smartest, but he stuck around. They start a life together. They have a baby. He is healthy. Years pass. Four years. And on that fateful day she asks her four year old son, “Would you do the dishes?”

“Why Mom?”

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