Another Christmas is behind us. Getting ready for the feast was pure pleasure to me. I cherish all the treasures for my table top.
But when dessert was finished the men and my sister headed back to the den to gather up their presents, as I divided the leftovers into packages for everyone to take home. My mom teetered into the kitchen with a cup and saucer, asking what she could do to help. Rescuing the precious cup and saucer from her little bent fingers, I breathed a sigh of
relief and said, “I’ve got it. Dad’s tired, you guys need to get him home.”
After making sure that all the appropriate presents and left-overs made it to the trunk of my brother-in-law’s car and my parent’s were safely tucked into their seats, I went into the house and cleared the dessert dishes off the table. Then I lifted the tablecloth I’d spread over the dirty dishes in the kitchen while we served dessert.
What had I been thinking of with all the linens and crystal and sterling and gold-rimmed china? Hadn’t I seen the plastic tablecloths that could be cleaned up with a damp sponge? What was wrong with paper plates and napkins? With plastic cups and cutlery? Didn’t I realize I couldn’t put the crystal or the silver or the gold rimmed dishes into the dishwasher?
I went to complain to Bill, but he was already asleep on the sofa. That’s when the love kicked in. First, I cleared out the sink and rinsed everything to get rid of food particles. Then I stacked things according to what they were and brought in my extra large drainer, that I only use after we have company. Since it’s metal, I carefully lined it with towels.
I began by washing the crystal. The water had to be very hot, so all the greasy fingerprints and lipstick would rinse away. I was taught never to stack crystal in the sink. When I put one layer on the bottom of the sink, I let it sit for a moment to let the heat and the soap do their trick. I washed and rinsed the glasses one at a time and then put them in the towel lined drainer. As the drainer filled up, I emptied it, by drying the crystal with flour sack dishcloths. In case no one every told you, all those terry towels they sell may be cute, but they’re useless when it comes to drying dishes. With the flour sack cloths I can shine everything up as I dry it and the soapy water keeps my hands grease free.
As I put the last piece of crystal in the drainer, I loaded the sink up with the china, adding more hot water and soap. It soaked while I finished drying the crystal. Then I loaded the drainer up with the china. As the china drained, I dumped all the silver into the sink. Then I dried the china.
Each piece of silver had to be washed individually, because anything left behind could permanently damage the finish. Then each piece rinsed and checked once again, just in case. The silver went into the drainer and a new batch of dishwater was needed, because the old dishwater was cold and dirty.
I loaded up the sink again and then dried the silver piece by piece and put it on a dry terry towel. Silver should never be put up immediately. It should sit out over night to get rid of all the moisture. As I lay the silver on the towel, I sorted it and counted the various pieces: six knives, six iced teaspoons, four regular teaspoons, six dessert forks, six dinner forks, two serving forks, two serving spoons, one large slotted spoon, one sugar shell, one butter knife, one small ladle, one bon bon server, two pie servers and one spatula. I knew I didn’t misplace any of the pieces.
And after everything was clean and ready to be put away in the morning, I knew I hadn’t been alone in the kitchen. Grandmother Mobley, Dad’s mom who we called Ma’am, Aunt Edie, Aunt Tommie, Aunt Hiley and even my mother had been in the kitchen with me. They’re the ones who made me choosy about the towel I used to dry the dishes. They whispered not to overload the sink with crystal. They’re the ones who advised me to let my silver sit out over night. I have no idea if their suggestions were practical or even useful, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
What kinds of household hints did your family give you to get you through the holidays?