Lessons Learned from Odessa’s Sink

Back in the early years of marriage, we had some friends who were adventurous, dear neighbors. They worked overseas but came home to our historic district to spend their summers working on their early 1900’s home. Those summer weeks seemed to fly by to me. I adored seeing Bea & Win come home and hated to bid them farewell.

There were times when I would make my way up to their home for a quick “drop in” visit
and there were times when they would invite us up for a meal.

I remember one particular conversation with Bea when she told the story of a friend of hers from her early years. She said that this woman would throw her kitchen towel over her shoulder as she worked in her kitchen. On her shoulder, it was handy. Bea said that she picked up that habit from watching this friend.

I had never seen anyone do this. Maybe this was a “Northern” habit? Or an “Old-timey” thing?  I remember that the story stuck to my ribs. I remember thinking about how others influence our habits and actions. And I still remember the sight of Bea with a towel thrown over her shoulder as she worked in her kitchen.

I can’t say that I have adopted this mannerism as my own, but on occasion
when the kitchen is busy
and there are many hands around,
I will throw a towel over my shoulder
so that I know that I have a clean towel ….
a towel who has a history that I know ….
not one that has been used to wipe up a smear of raw meat juice
or a puddle of spilled beverage off the floor without my knowledge.

And on those occasions that I find a towel over my shoulder, I remember Bea.

A kitchen habit that I do use from time to time
is a habit gleaned from my sweet grandmother, Odessa.
There are many sights and sounds I remember about my father’s childhood kitchen
and the things that happened there.
I remember that the water from her “tap” was hotter than water at anyone else’s house I knew. I knew it was hot enough to burn me. Yet she washed dishes bare-handed. I can still see that dishcloth circling those dishes …. bubbles swooshing and steam rising and her soft, gentle hands covered in tiny bubbles.  She had no dishwasher so feeding a family of four when we visited created more dishes than she was accustomed since she lived alone after my grandfather’s death when I was about ten years old.

My kitchen sink

As she cooked, my sweet Mama would take a moment to put dirty utensils and dishes into the sink. As a few items accumulated, she would stop there a that sink and quickly wash and rinse. This kept her counters clear and made for a quicker clean up after dinner.

My kitchen sink

I don’t really remember if my own mother had this habit, but I remember it about Mama. When we would go to visit, I was always underfoot so I watched her closely.

We don’t have an operating dishwasher in my home right now. With four eating and drinking bodies in my kitchen, the counter fills quickly with dirty dishes. And when I begin to cook, I have a tendency to throw dirties right into that empty sink with a *clank.*  When I remember to fill the sink with hot water and keep the strainer on the left full rather than tossing metal and glass into the empty right side, cooking and after-dinner clean-up are much more expedient. Ahhhhhh …. but, therein lies the crux of the problem: I have to remember to fill the sink with hot water and intentionally wash as I cook.

My kitchen sinkI would do well to remember Odessa’s sink. I would be wise to make it a life habit to cook in a kitchen that has a sink full of hot, soapy water.  I’m going to work on remembering this in the future. Sometimes I think about all the beautiful lessons that I learned from my sweet Mama. She was an exceptionally beautiful and talented soul.

What about you? Do you have a habit that you gleaned from a friend of family member that made an impression and that you still employ today?

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