Friday, April 20, 2007

the women and children first

At first we pretend that this is a game. But really, I know it isn’t, and that my mother is just trying to trick me into learning to wash dishes.

She lends me her arms. Sinking into the basin, we both watch. They are far beyond rescue, dry and crackly from the dehydrating scour of the yellow and blue soap. I stand there with my own arms behind my back, so they leave an open space between my elbows and my sides. My mother pushes her own arms through that space, like in a comdey act, and cringes as she searches for the dishes at the floor of the sink. I have always struggled with humor. She is behind me the entire time, telling me that I should remember the way this is done. I can only look down and think about her words, her advice. I wonder why I should know how to do this, if my father does not.

“this is how grandma taught me.” And I picture my grandmother behind my mother, my grandmother’s mother, all the women before them with their arms extending from behind the arms of their children, a great succession with each new generation wondering why, why us, why have we been chosen for this duty to go first.