Every time I fix Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, it brings to mind memories of family dinners of the past. My favorites were at the farm in Orem, where there was usually a huge gathering of family and lots of food and tradition.
One tradition, as previously discussed here, was Grandma’s cookies, which were like rocks. But last night, as I cleaned my kitchen, I thought of another – the post-dinner cleanup. At Grandma’s, cleanup commenced immediately following dinner. All the food had to be put away, the dishes washed, dried and put away. The silver had to be counted, washed, dried and put back in the chest. Everyone pitched in (voluntarily or otherwise) until the kitchen was, once again, spotless – and then you could kick back and relax.
Part of this was due to the sheer number of people. Some years, the tables took up the entire covered porch next to the kitchen, with barely enough room to move around the table. I remember one year when there was actually a table in the basement because there were so many of us. At the very least, the tables had to be cleared and taken down – there simply wasn’t room for anyone until that happened.
My in-laws do things very differently and it took me a couple of years to get used to it.
First of all, dinner doesn’t start with dinner – it starts with – starters. Chips, dips, vegetables and dip… you kind of have to pace yourself or there won’t be room for dinner. If you’re told dinner starts at 4:00, that means dinner actually goes on the table at about 6:00 or so. The only food that’s put away after dinner is anything that will spoil. Dishes are piled in the sink, on the counter tops and dirty pans are left on the stove while presents are opened and everyone retires to another room. Nobody helps clean up – the cleaning is done by the host/hostess after everyone leaves.
This was quite unusual to me. I mean – being naturally lazy, I like it when I’m not the hostess. But it was difficult to adjust to just walking away and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. However, as I cleaned up last night after everyone left, I reflected that I kind of enjoy this way of doing things.
I left the mess in the kitchen and we went to the living room to open presents and visit. And after everyone left and I was exhausted, I made sure whatever might spoil was put away – then I went and watched TV (and fell asleep a couple of times), completely ignoring that my kitchen was a disaster. I wonder how Grandma would feel about that. (My mother would laugh out loud if she knew some of my friends consider me the Queen of Clean.) After I rested (ibuprofen helps) and when my husband came to bed, I got up and started to clean the kitchen. I loaded the dishwasher and ran it, then organized the rest of the mess so I knew what needed to be done the next day. I put food away. I left bags of rolls and cookies and appetizers out for anyone who wanted to keep picking away at it. I left roasting pans full of juices on top of the stove. I ate a couple of chocolates. Then I went to bed.
One thing my mother used to say was – what if you died? Would you want people to see your house was a mess? Well golly – I’m dead! Do I care any more? Does my grieving family care that I left a mess behind? I hope the fact that I’m dead and gone overrides any mess I might have left behind!
Or, my next favorite – what if someone broke into your house? OK, I guess the sterling soaking in a bowl next to the sink might be awfully tempting and a heck of a lot easier to find than if it was in its case in the hutch (and yes, I also count the sterling before it’s put away). But in the scheme of things – if there’s a complete stranger in my house and I didn’t invite him in, do I really care that my kitchen is full of dirty dishes and there’s bags of food out on the counter? At least the cookies are easily at hand to offer the cops. And if I have to shoot an intruder – well heck, I had to clean the kitchen anyway!
I did have one benefit of last night’s cleanup. I broke the top part of my glass butter dish. I was planning on sweeping/Swiffering the floor, anyway – and I had already previously broken the bottom part and had to replace the whole thing, so i was able to just pull the top part out of the cupboard and voila – I have one whole glass butter dish again! I knew that thing would come in handy.
I hope everyone had a very happy holiday. Relax – you can clean house tomorrow.