Barbara and the Dishes


Barbara was a lot of fun to be around, kind and generous, and a wonderful friend. But she hated to do dishes worse than anyone I’ve ever known, before or since. When we were young people, no one had a dishwasher. Dishwashers were a luxury. Dishes were washed by hand and dried or allowed to air-dry the old fashioned way.

Barbara and I worked in the same office. We both had husbands named David. The two Davids eventually met through us and we all became friends. We were young married couples and budgets were tight, so instead of other entertainment, we hung out together, drank coffee, played cards or watched TV, something that didn’t cost money. Every weekend either we were at their house or they were at ours.

Sometimes we grocery shopped together and that was the weekend entertainment. Barbara taught me a lot about cooking, and gave me recipes that I still have. We couldn’t afford to eat out. Carry-out Jack Salmon from Uncle Charlie’s was only two dollars then and we could only afford that once in a while.

My husband and I were living in a four room flat and Barbara and Dave had a small two-bedroom house that they were buying from her husband’s parents who had moved to better digs. It was pretty run down, but at least it was a house. We spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the homes we would like to have some day and looking at house plans and decorating magazines.

Barbara liked company, and we seemed to spend more time at their place than at ours. Sometimes we ate Sloppy Joe’s, which were made by browning a pound of hamburger and pouring a bottle of ketchup over it. We ate the meat on buns, or if we were out of buns, we ate it on plain sandwich bread. Other times we grilled hamburgers or hot dogs, which didn’t mess up as many dishes.

As I said, Barbara’s weakness was dirty dishes. There were a lot of them since they cooked and ate at home from necessity. A reasonable person would do dishes each day so they didn’t pile up. In Barbara’s case, she would rather do something else — anything else — rather than wash dishes. The sink was always full and usually the cabinet was piled high as well. As long as there were any clean dishes, or any paper plates, she didn’t see a need to do them.

Sometimes she would invite us over and dishes had not been done in a week. I often helped her catch up, but a few days later the situation would be the same. I convinced her to fill the sink up with water so they could soak and be easier to wash. They still waited until scum formed. Eventually, she would run out of cooking pots or have an attack of ambition, and resort herself to doing the task she hated.

I learned to accept dirty dishes as a part of Barbara that was not going to change. She didn’t mind housekeeping, vacuuming, dusting, polishing furniture, and she liked doing laundry, even ironing. I’m sure she was tired after working all day and cooking, as well as taking care of her small child, and that was part of it. But her aversion to doing dishes was still legendary.

Over time, our friendship eventually faded and we drifted apart, not for any particular reason, but just because interests change and people move on. I don’t know if she ever got that dream home or not. I hope she did. But more than anything, I hope she got a dishwasher and that it is stainless steel and heavy duty with a pot scrubbing cycle and lots of buttons to push.

Barbara was a great friend, but she hated to do dishes more than anyone I’ve ever known.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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8 Responses to Barbara and the Dishes

  1. I am the type where I like to wake up and come home to a clean, at least somewhat organized home. I was raised to clean up and put things back when you are done with them, so reading about a week’s worth of dirty dishes makes me want to go, “Ach!”:D I have been called The Dishwasher more than once.


  2. Blog Lady 77 says:

    I’m with you. By circumstance, I am living in somewhere in a new part of the country for me. I don’t mean to be critical, but messiness and clutter seems to be imbedded in the culture and business here. The families are big and close. It’s all about family and large get to togethers. Like you said, people will host social events in their homes and not give a thought to cleaning before people come over. This is very foreign to me. The businesses are the same way, including doctors’ offices. Having been here for three years, I have developed a slight twitch, but overall I’m hanging in there. You know that Purell shortage that they’re blaming on the Corona Virus? Well, it’s partially my fault … supplies were already a bit low thanks to me. LOL Thanks for the great post!


    • Sheila Moss says:

      Oh gosh, some people have such low standards for cleanliness that it is unbelievable. You would think they could realize from seeing public places or other people’s homes that messiness isn’t normal. I’m not the neatest person in the world, but there is a level at which I can’t stand any more. If I need motivation I watch an episode of “Hoarders” and spend the rest of the day cleaning like crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Blog Lady 77 says:

        I get ya. Like you, I’m not a freak about it, but to me a cluttered environment is a sign of a cluttered mind, and as an Aquarius (humor) my mind buzzes enough with electricity! Lol. Seriously, I cannot EVEN think about writing if my room is messy. I make myself have my bed made and room cleaned up before I give myself the gift of coffee in the morning. And that is a big motivator for me. My middle name is J for Java. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  3. All of us have that one friend with an aversion to some aspect of cleaning. The son of a very good friend of ours is that way. They have a HUGE home with a dishwasher yet it’s too much trouble to unload and reload the dirty ones. When you go there every horizontal surface is full of stuff. If it isn’t dirty dishes it’s kid’s school stuff. I would never eat there because it freaked me out. They have a cleaning lady (so there is that one day that’s clean) and the wife didn’t work outside the home. Her mother wasn’t like that at all so it was a mystery to me. And yes, she would host book club and other activities in her home with the dirty dishes and cluttered mess.


    • Sheila Moss says:

      I think some people just can’t see a mess. I’m surprised the cleaning lady didn’t quit. I always “straighten up” before the cleaning lady comes so she can find what needs cleaning, otherwise she will clean around it. It seemed as if Barbara was always attempting to clean but just couldn’t get it done.

      Liked by 1 person

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