After lunch on Sunday, while others prepared for the Super Bowl, I filled a bucket of water from a tap in the garage, dumped it into the kitchen sink and began washing the plates and silverware from the, ahem, dishwasher.
Just like the bad old days on the farm, hauling water, right? Actually, for most of my farm life, we had running water. Now and then — more often than we’d have liked — some problem developed in the water line. When that happened, we’d return to the old days, pumping water at the cistern outside, heating it on the propane stove and using it to wash our dishes and do necessary cleaning.
Anybody my age from a farm background must remember those days. Many families went much longer than we did without running water, without any indoor plumbing at all, for that matter. A burner on the stove doubled as a water heater, and the little shack out by the tree belt served other needs. I don’t recall any of my school mates feeling deprived because of that. I sure didn’t. We had no expectation that things would change any time soon, so we went on with life.
Over this past weekend, a plumbing issue forced me to shut off the water as I made repairs. I figured it would take an hour or so. I soon discovered I couldn’t get a replacement part on a weekend. Well, there I was.
The difference between this past weekend and the old farm days was: I had every expectation that my situation would change in short order. I just had to endure for a few days. And, if you’re thinking that’s still a hardship, well, it is, but a working tap in our garage ran water, hot and cold. I wasn’t forced to climb down the rocks to the river, chop a hole in the ice and haul water in buckets back up to the house. Yes, the garage can be chilly, but it’s indoors, and the water ran freely.
I tried to recall how we used to manage in the kitchen without running hot and cold water at our finger tips. I carried a couple of loads of hot water from the garage to wash the lunch dishes and clean up. Then I decided I should wash the dishes that had accumulated in the dishwasher, since that wasn’t appliance wouldn’t work again until service was restored to the whole house. I filled the sink again and went to work.
I find a dishwasher convenient, but I found it pleasant to stand over a sink of steaming water and scrub at food particles and bits of grease on forks and spoons and plates and bowls. The kitchen faces west, and the window over the sink gives a marvelous view of the river, frozen and snow-covered these days. A dusting of snow fell through the afternoon on Sunday, and a light haze half-obscured the far bank. I wouldn’t say I had a great time doing dishes by hand, but it wasn’t awful, as one granddaughter recently said about some suggested activity.
I recalled how my mother stood at the sink on the farm. The window looked south, across the back yard, where her kids sometimes would be playing as she did the dishes. Later, of course, the older kids would gaze out that window, probably not as relaxed as Mom seemed to be.
Then I recalled our first big house in Pierre. The kitchen sink was under a large window, and Nancy and I sometimes washed and dried together as we watched our young kids dash about the back yard. The neighbor told me the kitchen had a blank wall until the previous owner decided they needed to be able to see the world outside while they stood at the sink. He cut a hole and installed the window. What a great decision.
Once I get my plumbing issue fixed, I’ll go back to running the dishwasher and turning on the kitchen taps without marveling at how magical it is. Once in a while, though, maybe I’ll still do the dishes by hand. I guess it wouldn’t be awful.