It was always the girls who washed the dishes. With sleeves rolled up, our foamy arms would soon disappear into the mountains of suds. The warmth of the water, along with the luxury of the bubbles, made us believe that dishwashing was the most enjoyable of chores. It was certainly better than the chores the boys did, and it allowed us a special time of sharing.
The three of us would line up beside the sink and take turns washing, drying, and putting away. We talked about boys at school and compared teachers. We whispered about upcoming birthdays and how we could hint for the items we desired.
We even shared secrets between gleaming white china and two-tone towels. We snapped them at each other when they got wet and often had foam fights with the last of the suds.
Father would call, "What are you guys doing in there?"
We would giggle and say, "Nothing, Dad," as we wiped away the evidence of our folly.
Sometimes I would hear Mother giggling softly to herself. She knew what we were up to - after all, she had sisters too.
When I was younger I always wondered why, whenever there was a family dinner, the men got to sit in the fluffy parlor chairs and talk, while the women washed dishes. I thought it was unfair.
But soon, I would hear gales of laughter coming from the kitchen, as my mother and her female relatives spoke in whispers and cracked jokes about the menfolk.
The men would grumble a little enviously over the closeness between the women and wonder what or whom they were talking about.
Soon, I was off to the kitchen to sit on a high chair and wear Grandma's apron around my neck as I joined in. Working together in the kitchen until the last pan was shiny and the last bit of news was shared, I felt as though I had joined a secret club, an honored place among my matriarchs.
At sinks I have learned about the joyous expectation of a first baby. I have pinky sworn in soapy water with my sister not to tell about her latest heartthrob. I have joked with my mother about her collection of tea bags, left drying on the clothesline by my prankster father.
I have shared recipes and made new friends with women who have picked up a towel and joined in whenever there was a church social or a barn-raising. Be it sewing clothes or stitching a wedding quilt for a new bride, the women of my family have always joined in.
At the kitchen sink, on family occasions, four generations of brides, mothers, and new girlfriends will be found sharing and laughing as the last dish of a family feast is put away, to be used again when the next gathering takes place.
My mother bought herself a dishwasher once we had all left the family home. It wasn't so much for the convenience, it was just that doing dishes alone made her sad. I know that whenever we visit, the modern contraption will be put away for a lingering moment of sharing with her daughters and granddaughters.
Today, I share this chore with my daughters, though if I had sons, I would let them join in as well. My husband's hearty laughter rings through the parlor when it is his turn to wash, and I find myself wondering what bit of gossip he is sharing with our children.
And when it is the girls' turn, I will often hear giggles and the sound of splattering foam or whipping towels.
I will say, "What's going on in there?" and they will answer, "Nothing, Mom!" with twittering voices, trying to control their laughter. And I will quietly smile and giggle to myself. For I know what's going on. After all, I have sisters, too.