I don't love doing dishes. I really do not like standing in front of this corner sink, where I inevitably am doused by the faucet right at the belly when I load and unload water bottles and plastic plates and coffee cups into the dishwasher. I'm not a fan of the smell of this pine-scented holiday-edition dishsoap I got in a big, goopy, beat-up package of cleaning products to review.
But every evening when I stand right there to tidy up the kitchen, every morning when I fill up the filter with eight scoops of coffee, every time I rinse a dish, I smile.
It's because of that round, red scrubber right there among the brushes and sponges. I smile because of that few yards of red netting knotted and worked into a tightly bound circle meant to scrub pots and vegetables and stains and even the bottoms of shoes.
My grandmother made them. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of them. She crotcheted them until her hands were red and raw. She made big shopping bags full of them even after her arthritic fingers popped out of the joint when she held the needles too long. She made them even though the netting wore at her beautifully kept, long nails until they cracked.
My grandmother made these scrubbers mostly for the winter bazaar at her church, where they were bundled into groups of five, tied with a ribbon, labeled with her name and sold to raise funds for the women's group. But she also tenderly offered them as gifts, laced them into packages for people who requested them, and was sure to choose colors that she knew would match your kitchen or were your very favorite shades.
When I got married, she made every member of the bridal party scrubbers in my wedding colors. She gave me black and white scrubbers just for the newlyweds. I tucked those scrubbers into the beaded clutch purse I bought for her to match the velvet dress she wore that evening. Those are more of a keepsake to me from that day than nearly anything else. They were turned and tied and tucked into my shower gift with such love.
When my grandmother died, my mother passed out much of the scrubber stash she had left at the memorial service. I got a few that my mother picked from the pile that she knew matched my kitchen.
That red one right there? It's the last one left, save the bride and groom scrubbers packed away. I use it -- it's the best way to get the baked on stuff out and the stubborn stuff up. But I don't put the elbow grease into it that I know my grandmother would have and would have nodded at me in expectation if she was standing next to me while I washed those pans in my sink. I just don't want that scrubber to be all used up yet. It's a small thing -- a thing meant to be worn out -- but it's a thing full of so much.
I have other objects and heirlooms from my grandmother meant to be cuddled up to and hung up and use to bake pies and angel food cakes, and I cherish all those ways I feel and see her in my home. That last scrubber, though, works at me like it does on a skillet, getting under all the tough stuff to the shiny part where I can see my grandmother's hands clearly, doing her own daily tasks, standing at the sink next to me, handing me soapy dishes to rinse and dry.
That scrubber -- it's so her. And I love it sitting right there, reminding me that the work is also the love, that the pain of making something simple is worth it, that what we do with our hands lasts so much longer than we ever know.