A few nights ago I enlisted my daughter Ellie’s help with the dishes. As usual, the dishwasher was jammed full and there was still a sink-full left. I asked her to be my dryer and she grabbed a rag, rolling her eyes the way any eight-year old would when asked to help. I don’t take it personally. I think she does it more because she thinks she’s supposed to be annoyed, and missing playtime to help with chores is decidedly uncool.
It’s quiet when we start, and my fingers are red before I realize the water is too hot. Ellie stands still, rag in hand, waiting for me to pass.
“Ellie, did you know that when I was a little girl…” I start.
“You and mamanaun (my grandma) used to do dishes together.” She forced a monotone “been there, done that” voice, saying, “ and she would wash them and you would dry them.”
I looked at her.
“You’ve told me that like a million times, mommy.”
I scrunch my eyes up and look back at the sink so she won’t see that it hurt my feelings. I know she didn’t mean it that way, but I’m embarrassed that I don’t remember. I guess I’m that mom, I think. The one who is out of touch and still tells the same boring things over and over again like she never has.
I adjust the water and blink my eyes a few times before I look back at her.
“I’m sorry, El. I didn’t realize that. I guess I just always think of it whenever I wash dishes.” I smile at her, trying to convince her that I have more to offer than stale memories.
“It’s okay. I like it.”
It’s quiet again for a few minutes and I feel like she is growing up with every dry dish.
She used to think I was the funniest, prettiest, smartest mom in the world. She would glow when she introduced me to her friends, sure that they all wished I could tuck them in at night. And now, standing taller than I remember her standing that morning, she was forming her own opinions about me. Opinions that weren’t remedied by crossing my eyes or tickling her.
It felt like a different responsibility all of a sudden.
I flipped on the garbage disposal and watched the water drain down, revealing a layer of silverware along the bottom of the sink.
“Oh, we missed some, hon. Look, it’s like buried treasure underneath all that soap!” She leaned over the sink and smiled.
“I guess we aren’t going to be done for a LONG time!” she exclaimed. She didn’t seem as disappointed about it as I thought she would be.
After saying “buried treasure,” I started thinking about the Titanic and how interesting it was that all that stuff was still down in the ocean somewhere. I told her about it and she was in awe that it had really happened.
“So, it’s down there now?” She set her rag down.
“Yeah, it’s there. I mean, whatever’s left now. Who knows? Could be some really cool stuff that nobody’s found yet.” Her eyes were huge.
“Can we go there?”
“No, I don’t think so. It’s pretty far underwater. But we can get some books at the library if you want to see pictures of it. And we can look it up on the computer.” I offered.
There were only a few spoons left and I realized we had been talking for almost a half hour while we cleaned. My hands were all wrinkly-wet and her towel was soaked through from all the dishes. I took the last few utensils and walked to the drawer to put them away.
When I got back to the sink, she was smiling mischievously.
There were suddenly three more “dirty” bowls and a measuring cup in the sink. She cleared her throat, the way any eight-year old would in such a situation.
“Go ahead, mommy. You get ‘em clean and pass ‘em to me.” She had that same look on her face, the one that told me I had found what I was searching for. I breathed in, letting the smell of lemon soap and childhood freeze this moment in my memory.
One day, many years from now, I hope there is another red-headed girl standing tall on a stool, telling her mommy she has heard this story before.
And like me, she will go to bed thinking of the treasure that was worth digging for. Under the soap, the sea, the flesh of a child trying to navigate new waters. The red hands of a mother who longed for intimacy, no matter the time spent searching.
And maybe, like me, they will rejoice in spending the rest of their lives filling the sink, only to empty it out again.
By Angie Smith from Bring the RainLeave a Comment
Lisa H says
This brought much needed memories to the front of my brain! I remember washing dishes with my grandmother (Mamaw) as well as cleaning her house or my favorite was the storm door on the back door that was always open!
I need to take a cue and stop and smell the Palmolive (Mamaw’s choice of soap) with my own children instead of getting it done so much quicker by myself.
angie smith says
i can smell palmolive now 🙂 thank you for your words…
my mom is the mom that tells the same stories again…and who i also thought was ‘uncool’ as i got a little older. mom came into town for the weekend for my engagement party – and she is most definitely the ‘coolest’ mom – all my friends love her, and i’m so proud to be her daughter…even if she does tell the same stories again and again. but there are small pieces of wisdom in those stories that i sometimes only realise on the 25th telling…
I really enjoyed this! Thank you:)
Southern Gal says
Beautiful, Angie. I’m there with my youngest son who just turned 9. He’s such a lover right now, but I see the signs that I saw with his older two siblings. Makes my heart hurt a little yet I’m embracing the now. Thanks you for this.
Jessica Turner @ The Mom Creative says
I love how you tell stories, friend. Elias now helps me empty the dishwasher by throwing the silverware into the drawer. Pretty soon he will be drying too. It kills me.
angie smith says
pretty soon you will have a washer AND a dryer 🙂 love you xoxo
michelle @ this little light says
What a beautiful post. Reminds me of my grandmother and my great-grandmother (Nonni and Nonna). Reminds us we don’t have to travel or spend much to enjoy precious moments … they’re in our everyday. Thank you for sharing yours; it was a great way to start the day.
Deb Martell says
So sweet Angie…that’s exactly what I used to do with my Nana…so dear to be reminded of the memory. And now my daughter is 17 and the last to leave the nest. Moments are precious with her. Loving and serving her is such a privilege.
That is a truly beautiful piece of writing. You’re gifted, Angie!
It makes me realize that washing and drying dishes with my mom is really important.
Wow, you have a gift with storytelling! I was hooked from the first sentence!
I long for the days mine will be old enough to have real conversations with. At the same time, I’m nervous for the day where Mommy’s bad temper or impatience isn’t forgotten in minutes.
I guess I have some growing up to do too!
Holley Gerth says
Those memories are worth telling again and again–and for most of history that’s how stories lived on, one generation to another. I wonder why in this modern world we think once is enough, maybe because we can save them in a computer? I think they’re worth telling and retelling so not just our minds but our hearts never forget. I was reminded of that last week at my Grandpa’s funeral. Thanks for the beautiful reminder to keep sharing his memories, to pass on the treasure…
Melissa Irwin says
that gave me goosebumps. i need to get rid of my dishwasher.
Beautiful! Sent me down a trail of sentiments about my own sons growing up. I have an 8 year old too and it really does seem like he gets taller between 8am and 8pm everyday.
We do find treasures when we take time to get to the dishes at the bottom of the sink. Thanks for the reminder that the simplest tasks and the time it takes to really finish them well, can produce the most beautiful memories of love for both a mom and her child.
Thank you, sometimes it’s hard in the hustle and bustle of daily life to take the time purposely and intentionally to invest in the lives of our children. What a precious sweet blessing from the Lord. In God’s Love, sheila
DARA GATES says
Ah, you made me cry first thing in the morning. I so miss my mom
angie smith says
praying for you, dara. i’m so sorry for your loss…may God bring you peace today as you walk through the grief…
As a mom of an 8-year old little (not so little anymore!) boy, I also look for the “moments” of his fading childhood to freeze to memory. They seem harder and harder to come by, so I relish and savor the ones I find.
Glad to know I am not the only one who has been told…”MOM you already told that story!” My 17 year old son just said that to me last week…and the tears come to my eyes as I write this! It gets harder to share with them at this age and not repeat myself every now and then!!! They have lives of their own now and sometimes what I have to share is OLD news…but I continue to share so they can pass the stories down to their children. My mom always said, “What goes around, comes around.”
I Live in an Antbed says
Yes, we mothers tentatively feel our way at times, don’t we? As they grow and change the relating changes, too, in some ways. But even in those seasons when we don’t seem to be their first choice, as we continue building into the relationship, we are sowing seeds that bear lovely fruit later. My older ones have come full circle and I am now “wise” and they enjoy our conversations, and seek me out. And as the younger ones grow up, I recognize the repetition of the cycle. Your “telling of the tale” was beautiful, so heartfelt. So intimately woven. Thank you!
Living the Balanced Life says
Such a beautiful story! And bittersweet! My youngest child is now 18 and while she loves me, I am not the *cool* mom right now. I know from experience (I have 3 kids in their 20s) that they do come back around eventually though!
In pursuit of happiness, or joy?
Absolutely precious. Thank you so much for sharing this.
What a precious moment. My oldest will be seven this fall and I already am trying to capture all those little moments in my memory because he’s growing so fast. Thank you for sharing this.
Love this. Just loved this! You gave me goosebumps and that little reminder I needed this morning. Thank you!
This is such a sweet story Angie! I just love it. Brings back wonderful memories of doing the same with with my grandma. I loved talking with her as we did dishes. Best visits ever!
Jeanne Damoff says
This is so sweet. I have tears in my eyes. Starting all over again with granddaughters now. And the beauty just multiplies.
What a pretty story. 🙂
Lauren Kelly says
Oh Angie, this was just so beautifully written, and what a sweet and tender moment between you and Ellie. I sit typing with tears in my eyes, because although I’m not a mom, it makes me want to hug mine a little bit tighter!!!
Beautiful description of a priceless memory told to a new generation. It’s stories like this that make me so thankful for my grandparents. Even if they do tell the same stories. they never get old because I see that familiar spark in my Papa’s eye as he tells of a time long ago.
simply sara says
your writing is so very beautiful.
all too often i take the rolling of the eyes & the complaining of my 7 year old personally…. and when i do miss the chance to search for the buried treasure.
thank you for whispering sweet encouragement to me today.
This is precious, and real. My own is 19 and gone to another country for two weeks. Thinking now that I just might let that sink spill over while she’s gone. And we can spend hours talking about Vancouver while our hands find the treasures at the bottom of the sink.
Sonya Schroeder says
Angie this brought tears to my eyes! I dont have little girls, I have 3 boys, however I totally get trying to search for every moment with them! Thanks for sharing this, it made me smile.
What a lovely story. It brought tears to my eyes as I felt the longing in your heart to connect with your daughter in a tangible way. I feel much the same when I talk with my son, who is nearly 13, and almost as tall as me. How I pray that God will bind us together in a way that endures adolescence. How grateful I am that I don’t endure the lonely moments of motherhood alone. And how thankful I am for those small moments, unscripted and unpredictable, that bring my son back to my side. Thanks for sharing your heart.
That is a sweet story, Angie. I’m thankful Ellie is okay. 🙂
great.. at work.. at lunch.. crying lol.. My son is going to be 18 this month.. yikes.. my mom has been gone since I was 18.. long time.. still miss her though and with my son living 3 hrs away (with his father) we don’t get to have these moments anymore.. I miss him every day and the older he gets the harder it is for us to connect. But, I am still a pretty “cool mom” to his friends and they even notice when my boy and I don’t spend time together.. apparently he gets a little cranky and sad – as do I. So, making a point to spend some quality time with him in a couple of weeks.. Thanks for sharing 😀
Love this so much Angie.
I’m not a mom yet but I hope that I can remember the things I have learned from you when I do become one. I love all the things that you use to grow closer to your children and all the things you use to teach them important lessons in life.
Thank you so much.
Thank you so much. I have a 5-year old daughter, the youngest, and so appreciate the looking ahead to the potential 8-year old coming. This is so beautiful and so encouraging to me.
Beautiful! I got all teary-eyes with this as it seems my 6 yr. old is also growing up right before my eyes.
This was surely memories in the making! I hope you wrote this moment in your 1000 Gifts List! 🙂
Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms says
What a legacy your family has, and what a beautiful Mama you are, Angie.
This post also reminds me of how memories with our young’uns can be as easily created over kitchen sinks as playroom floors. LOVE this.
Absolutely beautiful, Angie. Just beautiful.
My (almost) 8-year old redhead delights in asking me “Tell me about when you were a girl, mom!” And even if I tell the same stories over and over (“tell the one about the caterpillars in second grade”), she never seems to tire of hearing them. Makes me want to remember more and also makes me want to help her remember the *now* so she can tell it to her daughter.
Thanks for sharing!
This brought tears to my eyes thinking of all of the times in my haste to “get things done”, I have missed moments with my girls I can never get back. Thank you for the reminder that they will only be 5, 2, and 6 months for a short time; and the extra half hour washing the dishes – or coloring, laughing, cuddling – are blinks of an eye and worth every second. Many, many thanks.
Grace and peace.
that was beautiful. thank you for sharing. blessings to you!
What a beautiful moment for you! I need moments like this with my daughter. My 3 year old on the other hand, wants in on everything and thinks his mama is the frosting on the cake! I’m so rushed when I get home I just do the little things, like dishes, by myself because it is so much faster and easier. I know I need to make a point to have her more involved in these day to day tasks so we can spend more time together. The only problem is when we have our times together I can hardly get her to talk. The T.V. is much more interesting to her. She is 11. I’m not sure if this is how most 11 year old girls are but you just about have to pry words out of her. Maybe I need to put forth more effort. I don’t know; I just want that bond, that connection again.
Shawna & Co. says
Oh Angie, you have me crying. It was all good until “Under the soap, the sea, the flesh of a child trying to navigate new waters. ”
I know one day all to soon my girls 7 and 5 will be grown and drying dishes with their own children. My 7 year old especially is really coming into her own and while I love seeing the little person she is becoming, it’s bittersweet to see her grow up too.
Praise God for healthy test results for Ellie!!!
I love this post – it makes me think of my granny’s kitchen when I was a child. There were always goodies and treats for us grandkids and we loved to go in there and search. My little family lives in my granny’s house now, and I never walk into our kitchen that I don’t think of her. Thanks for bringing up memories!
i love how i can start this story feeling one way, and by the end you’ve totally twisted my heart around in another direction. and i love how you treasure being a mama. you blink your snapshots beautifully.
This is such a beautiful story.
I remember washing dishes with my Mom when I was younger and I hated it too.
But it’s something I’ll always cherish and the reason I don’t want a dishwasher when I “grow up” 🙂
I have two daughters, 18 and 14, so I get the “Yeah, I know, you’ve told us that already’ thing a lot– and I still get a little blinky and shamefaced as I try to quickly regain my footing. My girls are not rude or disrespectful to me but let’s face it– we’re deep into adolescent country around here and I haven’t been the “funniest, prettiest, smartest mom in the world” for quite a while!
But as I read this beautifully written piece, what came to me was that my own 94 year old mom is at home in Arkansas, right this minute. She’s looking after my 94 year old dad, who is hanging in there, but every day is getting just a little frailer, foggier and less of a companion to his wife of 73 years who is now his full-time caregiver. She needs to be reminded that while she wasn’t perfect (neither am I), she was SUCH an incredible mother to me and my five siblings, and I honor her legacy every single day.
And right now? I’m going to get off of this computer and call her and tell her so.
You gave me goosebumps!! I still wash dishes with my grandmother (who will turn 83 on March 8th!) and still learn so much from her.
This touched my heart today…. for my mom and I, it was hanging and retrieving the clothes off the clothesline in the summer…
My grammy has told me the same stories over and over since I was little… she’s 84 now. Wow, she must have told each one like 50 times by now.. or maybe more. The funny thing is she tells it again as though she doesnt even remember she’s told me a mllion times * maybe she doesn’t remember! haha* I love listening her tell the story again.. her face expressions, her smile.. how her eyes go back in time as if she was transported there in that moment. And then we are both standing there looking her at when she was little.
I LOVE your writing also, but its not even your writing, its you the actual writer.. the way you feel things and the way you savor everything and every moment. Its amazing and God in you is amazing. I first heard you in revive our hearts and your journey with God has also blessed my life inmensely.
wonderful post! and i love.that.picture!!! –beautiful, thank you!!
Oh, how sweet. I just loved this story Angie. 🙂
Wow. Look at God! Showing up there at your kitchen sink. Beautiful story. Filled with love. Shining bright like treasure!
I so do you wish you were my mother, but this story only makes me want to get closer to my Mom, and I’m a 21 year old! 🙂
You inspire me…to live, love myself, love others and most importantly, love Him. <3
Oh Angie, you handle rejection so much better than I do. Thank you for sharing!
What a beautiful picture of Ellie & your grandmother. The way they are looking at each other all cuddled up gave me goosebumps.
Such a sweet story too. I had to grin when Ellie mischievously threw some more “dirty” dishes in the sink. You must love her to bits 🙂
That’s all I can say.
We are THAT family says
This made me cry! Maybe it’s because my big girl is 11 now. I watch her eyes flicker when I’m around her friends. She is torn between the pleasing and the pressure. I watch her struggle to fit in, knowing she’s a stranger is this world. She knows it too-that’s why there’s a struggle. It’s painful. It’s beautiful. I feel the same way sometimes.
But it’s in these moments as the sink-when we connect-engage- that buoy her to return home to me-home to the place where there is no pressure or pleasing.
Jami Kastner says
love love LOVE! I cried! What a great way to start my morning! I loved reading about your mommy moment. I had one this a.m. too… they are the frosting on my cake of life.
Have a GREAT day!
Heather Gemmen Wilson says
You got me all teary-eyed! My baby girl is all grown up at 15, and moments like these are precious. Thanks for the reminder to keep looking for them.
Thanks for sharing a beautiful story. Miss those ‘times’ with my Mom and my Grandmother. Wish I’d been better about ‘relishing’ the moment(s). And the picture is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing your gift of writing, from the depths of your sweet heart.
Blessings today and always,
Thank you for this story Angie, You took me back to the nights I stood on a stool at my Nana’s kitchen sink rinsing and drying the dishes for her and listening to her wonderful stories! I am so thankful she is still around to share those same stories with my babies.
My daughter often reminds me that I have told her a story before, starting her sentence with.. “I know, I know”. And I know that someday she will look back and remember those stories I repeated time and time again and be so thankful I shared them with her. And I am sure Ellie will feel the same way!
Jessica W says
Oh how I look forward to moments like these. My almost 3 year old, Hope is just now starting to help with dishes. She loves to wash them. I pray her interest in dishes (and time with me) continues for a long time! Thanks for sharing this sweet story Angie.
Angie, Thank you for the reminder; can’t believe I need it right now. My dd was just diagnosed with leukemia in January. It’s been such a gift to be “stuck” in the hospital with her for days on end during our 4 separate hospital admissions. Our conversations mean the world to me and to her. We’ve been able to share so much that I would have never made the time to do. I thought that I was intentional about spending time with each of my kids, but God has showed me a whole new level. Whoever though leukemia could be a gift????
Thank you for the amazing story! I started tearing up as I read it-thinking back at memories of my mom and the ones with my daughter (who is now in heaven).
Thank you Angie for sharing these beautiful memories
There’s something so magical about sharing stories about our parents and grandparents when they were young, isn’t there? 🙂
What I’m Reading says
[…] As someone in this stage, I needed this. It makes me hopeful::: Emptying the Sink […]
Miranda Hartrampf says
That made me cry, how beautiful!
wow. my little lady is only 3 now and already i have all these fears creeping in about “losing” her…i’ve never been loved the way she has loved me these last 3 years, and it has felt so profound that I’m terrified to lose it…terrified that as she grows, she’ll reject me. It’s inevitable that there will be days in her teen years that she thinks to herself (or perhaps screams out loud) that she hates me or wishes i’d just leave her alone…
i cling a bit too tightly to the hope that we will find ourselves as our own Gilmore Girls…
i’m so grateful for your post. i haven’t had my girl help me with dishes yet, but i’ll be starting that TODAY!