35. Battle of the Dishes

35. Battle of the Dishes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Battle of the Dishes

He who wants to change the world should already begin by cleaning the dishes.

~Paul Carvel

“Mom!” My daughter’s cry echoed through the house.

“What now?” I asked as I entered the kitchen to find her rummaging in the drawers, ducking under an open cabinet door. Always drama with teenagers.

“He did it again. Daddy did it again,” she cried.

I looked around the room. The countertops were free of clutter, and the appliances gleamed. A sure sign my husband had been in the room.

“Did what?” I asked. A second glance answered my question. The cupboard was bare. A lonely four plates, four cups, three bowls and four iced tea glasses filled the cavernous space.

“It’s my fault. I’m sorry,” Scott mumbled through a mouthful of Cheerios.

Hunched over the kitchen table, my son guarded his bowl of cereal. “I left my Coke glass and plate on the back porch, and Dad saw them.”

“Mom!” Another cry erupted from my outraged teenager. “He’s put our names on everything.”

“Color coded,” Scott said, as he drained the bowl of its remaining milk. He held it up. “Scott” was neatly printed on the side in dark blue marker.

“My name is in orange. I hate orange.” Kathy plopped down at the table and buried her head in her arms. “Dad is so weird.”

I picked up my iced tea glass to admire my name spelled out in bright rose. “You have to admit he has artistic talent.”

When I married Harry, I was madly in love. Not once did I think to take notice of the fact that he grew up in a single-wide trailer. Living in a small space, Harry had “a place for everything and everything in its place” engraved on his soul.

“Does he love you?” my mother asked.

“Can he take care of you?” my father demanded.

“Does he treat his mother well? A man who treats his mother with love and kindness will treat his wife the same,” my granny advised.

No one asked if he was a neat nut. I, on the other hand, was a pack rat.

“Less is better!” he said.

“It’s my stuff!” I said.

The battle cries of war. A friendly battle with the kids on my side. Give me an empty tabletop, and I will find something to put on it. Harry, on the other hand, believes flat surfaces should remain bare. Knick-knacks should be banned.

Visitors to our house often departed with “my stuff.” Admire the candlesticks, and Harry will say, “Here, take them.”

Our attic was filled with boxes, items he deemed not necessary. It only made me go out and buy more stuff. The kids learned to hide their fast food toys.

“What if my friends come over?” I said. “It’s a hundred degrees outside. I say, ‘Would you like a glass of iced tea? Lemonade? Water?’ No, wait, I can’t offer them a drink. We have no glasses!”

“What if Patrick comes over?” my daughter cried.

The truth was out. Young love. My husband and I had a heart-to-heart talk. I understood that leaving dishes around the house and yard went against his grain. I knew that he had told the kids over and over and over again.

The crisis was solved. We now have a fifth glass in our kitchen cabinet. In front, in a place of honor, is a tea glass with VISITOR printed in large purple letters.

How to explain this to the relatives at Christmas will be our next problem!

~Jeri McBryde

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