Holiday Dishwasher

7 Minute Read

This year I did something I don’t usually, preferably ever, do after the holiday meal. I did the dishes. My husband usually takes care of this chore – or family members who may be visiting. This year it was me.

I want to say that I decided to do this because I am kind and generous. Or that I wanted to prove to my husband that, despite his opinion, I do know how to fill a dishwasher. What I wanted was to save our day after Thanksgiving tradition, and if it meant loading the dishwasher, I was going to fill it. And I would do it my way.

You see, because somehow due to the late fall, instead of going to get our Christmas tree, a 20 plus year day after Thanksgiving tradition, my husband (Gary) informed me, somewhere between pass the gravy and more cranberries please, that we couldn’t go because, in addition to doing “all the dishes” tomorrow, he had to mulch leaves.

I was in shock and disbelief. We ALWAYS go for the tree the day after Thanksgiving. Everyone in the family knows this. Our friends know this, and indeed the people at the tree lot know this. I all but dropped the cranberries. A hush came over the room.

The real issue here is that Gary believes that only he knows how to fill the dishwasher correctly. Since the leaf mulching had become a priority and he had all the dishes to do, he had decided that we were going to have to break our tradition and reschedule our trip to the tree lot. The timing of all this was a problem in desperate need of a solution. I decided to solve it.

So, after he went to bed, I headed to the kitchen. I was going to resolve this matter once and for all. Not only would I save our holiday tradition, but he would also see that I could fill the dishwasher correctly.

I will tell you I was quite proud of myself. In short order, I had the first round nicely loaded into the dishwasher. I could smell the scent of pine wafting my way. All I had to do now was close the door hit the start button and be on my way to finding my pillow. It was 1 a.m.

I didn’t care I would be up and ready to go in the morning. We would get the tree. Gary would mulch the leaves. All would be right with the world again.

Except, that for some strange reason I could not get the dishwasher door latch to catch. I spent 30 minutes trying to figure it out. Nothing! And let me say, it wasn’t because I didn’t load the dishwasher correctly. It was correct all right. I couldn’t get the door latch to catch.

At the risk of waking my sleeping sweetheart with my attempts to fix the problem, I decided instead to go to bed. As my head was about to hit the pillow, I thought, “I need to send him an email.”

Subject Line: Dishwasher

Is loaded the way I want it. Please start. Couldn’t get the door to lock.

Thanks, and I love you.

First let me say yes, he was sleeping right beside me. Sleeping, however, is the operative word here. Second, I didn’t write  “Thanks, and I love you.” However, I wish I had. It just would have been so much nicer. I was going for efficiency, which is why I sent the email from my cell phone as I was lying in bed instead of getting back up and leaving him a note on the counter.

But I digress, back to cleaning the holiday dishes. After I get up from my slumber and Gary takes his morning shower (before running the dishwasher which would use up all the hot water), he goes into the kitchen to remedy the situation. Pretty much he goes through all the same steps I did – with one exception, as a last resort before scouring the home appliance ads, he reaches for the screwdriver, jiggles it around in the latch and viola! (“Viola” is not a typo – it’s a story for another day.) The door locks and now the dishwasher will start.

You may be thinking big deal Mary Elizabeth. You decided to do the dishes. Good for you. Is there a point to this story?

Yes, yes there is.

In addition to the examples of conflict resolution, problem solving and teamwork (or lack of) there is more than a point. There is a gift. So as the late great Paul Harvey would say, “And now the rest of the story.”

So, okay, okay, Gary heads out to do his leaf mulching thing, and I decide to unload the dishwasher and finish up the “chore” of washing the rest of the dishes. As the first load was finishing its last cycle, I decided to change the table linens. Now that sounds all fancy, doesn’t it? Table Linens. Well, this is where the gift begins.

As I changed the tablecloths (I need two to cover the odd length) – I looked at my mismatched chairs around the table. I started thinking, “20 plus years of marriage and I still don’t have matching chairs. Worse yet, we are still using the old folding chairs, gripe, gripe, complaint, complaint.” Resentment began building, and bitterness was seeping in. My thoughts were starting to take over my feelings of accomplishment and replace them with failure and blame.

And then this happened. I recognized this shift in my body and started to notice what I was thinking. Yes, I began thinking about what I was thinking. I recognized my feelings and my disappointed dreams around having a Pottery Barn dining room and that those expectations still hadn’t been met. Those first steps and subtle shift began my RESET Your Buttons moment.

Instead of spiraling down the “woe is me” trail, I began to think about all the laughter and fun and great food we had the night before. And then I started thinking about all the people – family, friends who have sat in those chairs over the years the celebrations and conversations. The meals we shared, the problems we worked through the games we played, and jigsaw puzzles we solved. Those thoughts threw the spiral into reverse. I was feeling joy.

Now, the first round of dishes was done and put away. Time to start on round two. I was washing the platter we received as a wedding gift from my friend Pat. It has a lovely seashore border around the edge. I remember when I first held it thinking “oh won’t this go lovely at our beach house,” “beach house, ha, I’m still paying off this house.” And the spiraling down begins again.

It is a large, heavy platter and though we have served many a turkey on it, every time I think “someday I will have a more appropriately themed holiday platter.”  And then it happened again. Another RESET Your Buttons moment.

This time my thinking began to shift into wondering about the many meals we had served on that platter. I thought about our wedding celebration, and I remembered my friend Pat. Unfortunately, I’ve lost touch with her over the years. Though, every time I see that platter, I think of her and smile.

As I was cleaning off the last of the turkey bits in the hot soapy water, I felt appreciation for her and this thoughtful gift that she gave to us so many years ago. Pat’s gift that continues to grace my table.

But wait there’s more, I also felt deep gratitude for the many times we’ve been blessed with the ability to fill that platter with so many delicious foods. From hot dogs off the grill to the gourmet dinner sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds prepared by the chef in our family – this platter has been the centerpiece.

What was happening? How was it that I was enjoying cleaning up and doing the dishes?

I was moving into a RESET Mindset. With each dish, pan and platter I picked up I seemed to have a memory which led me to feelings of joy, appreciation, and gratitude.

I was getting to the end of my dishwashing journey. Just a few pieces left. I have this plastic container with sections. I think it was made by Rubbermaid, Tupperware or some other company that makes molded plastic food storage products. It’s big. It’s round. You can put vegetables and dips, cookies and candies, peanuts and pretzels in it. You name it, there are sections for it, and It has a cover for easy transport.

The section part is a pain to clean because it is one big molded plastic piece. It doesn’t fit in the sink or the dishwasher. The whole thing takes up way too much space in my kitchen cabinet. “Oh, those kitchen cabinets what I would give for more storage space. If only, he would, they should, or I could …” Whoops, there it is, slipping down the spiral again.

Then I remembered, as I held that big piece of molded plastic with sections and convenient cover for easy transport in my hands. My mom had given it to me. It was just like the one she had and would use for the holidays and all sorts of family gatherings.  BAM! RESET Your Buttons moment #3.

Instead of fussing and complaining and feeling lack, I was strolling down memory lane. The difference was that this time it was my mom’s table. The celebrations and the memories she worked so hard to create for us. Holidays, graduations, baby showers to birthdays you name it that traveling molded piece of plastic with sections was there and filled to the brim with tasty treats.  My mom didn’t always get it perfect, but it most certainly wasn’t for her lack of effort. She did everything with love and the desire to make the best out of any situation.

My mom has been gone for many years. Yet, in those few moments, as I was remembering, it felt as if she were standing right beside me at the sink, sharing stories and laughing. I was almost sure if I turned my head her face would be right there, smiling at me as we looked out the window and washed dishes together.

Gary came back in the house from his leaf mulching adventure, looked around the kitchen and said, “you’ve been busy.”  “Yes, my love, yes, I have. Thanks, and I love you.”  It was nearing 5 pm. Time to dirty more dishes.








  1. Cindy on December 4, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    This came at a perfect time.

  2. Mary Elizabeth Murphy on December 4, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you, Cindy, for taking the time to share your comment. I am thrilled that it came to you just when you needed it most. By the way, we brought our tree home yesterday and she is perfect. Next step decorating … maybe another blog post.