I am standing at the kitchen window, staring into darkness where only a few minutes before the light had smeared lavender across the horizon like a little girl's first attempts at makeup. It is the night before Thanksgiving, the dishwasher has died and one by one each knife, spoon, spatula, pot, plate, bowl, cup and colander involved in the preparation of my assigned dishes — together with all the dirty glasses and plates and silverware that filled the dishwasher at the time of its demise — must be washed and dried by hand.
The onions and celery and pepper, diced delicately into small green cubes and tossed with the shoe-peg corn and the bright red pimentos, await the marinade that is cooling on the back burner and tomorrow's verdict of whether Jenn's morning sickness will subside long enough for her to enjoy it. Aunt Doris' lime congealed salad, without which no holiday meal is complete, is congealing in the refrigerator, filled with nuts that Mama and Daddy picked up from under the tree in the side yard and shelled while watching Fox News. The nuts have also made their way into half of the fudge, the other half left nut-less for Katherine. The cranberry salad will be finished once it thickens enough for the pineapple and yet more nuts to be stirred in.
The satisfaction of completion makes up for the frustration of the dishwasher's untimely death and I am unexpectedly content as I lower my hands into the hot sudsy water. Dishcloth in right hand, bowl in left, I swoosh the water around and around, set a rhythm for the task and for my breathing. Cooler water pours out of the long neck of the faucet and washes away the suds, leaves the bowl clean. Its curved glass sides reflect the overhead light in a starburst that causes me to blink. I turn it upside down onto the striped cotton dishtowel that stretches down the counter. Lines of water run down its face like tiny rivers racing to the sea.
I reach carefully to the bottom of the sink, beneath the suds, feel around for the knives, pull one up by its handle, wipe its teeth free of the celery strings. I add more hot water to help melt the tiny shards of chocolate left in the bottom of the pot. Each utensil, each dish requires its own attention, its own particular touch of my hand to be made clean. I am struck at some point how like a baptism this all is — going down dirty, coming up clean.
It doesn't take much for that train of thought to move right on down the track to see the rest of the Thanksgiving preparation as sacrament as well. Take and eat this bread. Take and eat this marinated vegetable salad, this fudge, this turkey and dressing and pecan pie. And do it in remembrance of me. Do it in remembrance of all that is good in your life, all that has been good in your life, all that will be good in your life.
In the drawer by the sink, there are more striped cotton dishtowels. I get out another one and begin drying the dishes, piled on the counter in a precarious pyramid of glass and plastic and stainless steel. The last traces of water on the bowls, the spoons get absorbed into the towel. The cabinets fill — glasses lined up, plates stacked, silverware sorted.
The darkness outside the window has grown thicker. I can make out no shapes and yet I continue to stare as I drain the sink, spray it with Fantastik® and wipe away the last vestiges of what will be my Thanksgiving offerings. I am not looking at, but toward. Maybe through.
I am wondering if it is all sacrament. Every day, not just holiday. Every meal, not just Thanksgiving. Every breath. Every blink. Every scent and sound. I am wondering if I have approached life, all of it, with the holy awe it deserves. I am wondering if I have any idea of how to be grateful.