I knew when I asked Edmond Manning to write up a post for Thanksgiving I was asking for something that was both going to be funny and heartfelt. He has an amazing capacity to make me laugh and cry. Okay, so I’m not always thankful for that crying part. ~ Faye
I have been very quiet about a special relationship of mine. It started a year ago and I announced it on Facebook. At the time, I got a ton of relationship advice and even a few jeers about how I was already ‘doing it wrong,’ so I retreated and nurtured this relationship in private. And though I haven’t talked about this relationship publicly, we see each other daily. Mostly in the kitchen. I don’t feel judged. I give this relationship my nastiest, grungiest parts of me and together, we make everything clean.
It’s my dishwasher. I love it.
Never had a dishwasher growing up. We always washed dishes by hand, a chore my mom swore built character. Well, I don’t have much character now, so clearly she was wrong. The home I now own as an adult was built in the 1920s, so dishwashers weren’t a thing. And the kitchen is so small that there’s no room for a permanent installation today, even if I wanted a built-in dishwasher.
Last year I bought one of those dishwashers on wheels, which felt like a sketchy purchase, like something a person might get out of the SkyMall catalogue and have to justify to friends. I read the reviews, did my due diligence, and saw plenty of comments from people saying, “The roller versions today are way more dependable than they were a dozen years ago. Honest.”
I bought one. I wheel it into the kitchen each time from a little pantry hallway.
Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect time to discuss my immense gratitude for clean forks. Every time I do the dishes, I feel like I’m participating in a magic trick. I wheel the dishwasher into my kitchen like the trusty assistant, and then I connect the cables. I load up the soap and with some extra panache no one will ever witness, I turn it on.
Soon, everything is clean.
I can’t even stand it. I am giddy when I open the door, hours later. I unload the dishwasher with extreme gratitude, every single time. I marvel over every clean plate, every knife that glimmers, and I shake my head that the glasses never have spots. Never. How is this possible? How does this happen every time?
I never get tired of this magic trick. And every time, I feel extreme gratitude.
Oh, this relationship is not without its flaws and challenges. I don’t use enough dishes to warrant washing every day, and I refuse to waste water unless it’s packed full. Which means, I wash dishes once a week or every ten days… In the meantime, I use up all my forks and milk glasses in five or six days and the dishwasher is only three-quarters full. I had to go buy more drinking glasses. And more forks. I think this is healthy. We all have to compromise and change in a relationship.
Six months ago, my baby broke down and I called the company who supplied it. The technician appeared on my door step with a grim nod and I led him to my broken sweetie. I fretted nearby and peppered him with questions. What happened? Was it something I did? What can I do in the future to avoid this tragedy?
He eyed me like I didn’t deserve this relationship and left with vague, unsatisfying advice: scrape your plates before loading it. Was that the problem? Un-scraped plates? Was it food damage?
Scrape your plates, he said.
I have been extra careful around the dishwasher since then, aware that this relationship could go away for technical reasons I do not understand. I do my best to express gratitude for our every day together.
I wish I expressed gratitude for people the way I now do so naturally with clean forks.
It’s easy to express gratitude for dishwasher magic.
With people, I am less accepting. I forget that a friend’s smile is dazzling and shown just for me. I forget that words of kindness from my best pal aren’t something I should expect and in response, think, “yeah, yeah.” This is kindness from someone who has known me for years and knows my flaws. Someone who has seen my dirtiest and grungiest self—and still thinks that I can be beautiful and clean again.
I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
I know a lot of people like it for the lack of present-buying, the low-expectations. (Well…low expectations if you’re not the cook.) I think I like it because I am someone who forgets to feel gratitude. I expect my relationships to work, for them to be easy and convenient, like an appliance. When they require maintenance, I get confused. What happened? Was it something I did?
It’s so easy to overlook gratitude. And not just saying aloud, ‘thank you.’
And not the overly-emotional ‘thank you,’ you say when you’re hopped up on painkillers. That creepy gratitude also comes out on Thanksgiving to compensate for a hundred days of not noticing. People get weepy-thankful and it’s disconcerting. Gah.
No, there is a deeper gratitude that is beyond words beyond thanks. It’s quiet appreciation. It’s holding up a fork and saying, wow. How did I get so lucky?
On Thanksgiving, I will try to host this deeper appreciation for all sorts of relationships in my life. I will try to say my internal wows without creeping out the entire family and make them worry I’m dying and saying my final goodbyes. I will try to look at them as clean forks and think about how lucky I am that people love me and still bake me cranberry bread. We will laugh at new jokes and reminisce over new memories recently made, and some of this newness will scrub clean old family hurts.
And when mom asks me to help wash or dry the dishes, sans dishwasher, after Thanskgiving dinner, I will tell her, “No way. I can’t. I’m in a relationship.”
Edmond Manning is the author of romance series, The Lost and Founds. The first three books in this series include King Perry, King Mai (a Lambda Literary finalist 2013), and The Butterfly King. His non-fiction includes a book of essays like this one, titled I Probably Shouldn’t Have Done That.