We just got done with another chicken dressing. This time we did 450 chickens 30 ducks, and 15 turkeys. Surprisingly, dressing can be a wet job. It is technically wetter than it is messy. We use lots of water to help keep stuff clean and sanitary. Everyone dons floor-length aprons and rubber boots on processing day. That means that at the end of my twelve hour day, I have a serious case of “dishwater hands.” You know, when your fingers shrivel up and look like pink prunes? When we were younger and got to hang out in the bathtub too long, we’d giggle and say we had “grandma hands.” A day of chicken dressing not only gives me “dishwasher hands”, but also affects my feet because I wear Crocs. Boots are the classic foot covering for most folks, but I am not a boot-wearing person.
I have an odd fascination for random ideas and thoughts such as: “Why does bright sunlight make you sneeze?” Or “Why don’t I, as a big water drinker, become thirsty on Dressing Day?” Typically, I am a big water drinker. On a normal day I easily consume my eight glasses of water, sometimes before 10 am. In fact, I have a reputation for being a water guzzler. Some of my friends theorize the reason for my constant thirst is because my tongue is flapping so much it gets dehydrated! But on dressing day, I don’t get very thirsty. I am apparently too focused on dressing chickens to pay attention to my thirst, as I usually only drink eight ounces in a eight hour time frame when I am processing. A teacher friend of mine suggested that my reduced thirst may be a result of osmosis. Most of us are familiar with reverse osmosis as it is used in many water filter systems. Reverse osmosis works when high density water is slowly forced through low density charcoal. Osmosis is simply the movement of liquids from a higher density to an area with lower through a permeable barrier. In other words, since my hands, and especially my feet were in water for such an extended period of time, my appendages may have pulled in enough water that my body wasn’t registering its usual thirst signals. It’s a fascinating thought, but it may not be scientifically correct.
I am not real sure just how long wrinkled hands have been associated with dishwashing. I don’t think that the dishwasher’s hands of old were that wrinkled. When I was in Missouri the other weekend, we got on the subject of dishwater. We have a church district over there that held a communion service. Our communion services are two-day affairs and four meals are provided in the church basement for those attending. Naturally, that means a lot of dishes to wash. It doesn’t take that long though, when everyone pitches in. Typically, tables are cleaned off, the dishes washed, and the table re-set in twenty minutes. The hot water at this particular church house comes from their wood-fired oven. It heats endless quantities of water to boiling point. They told me an interesting bit of trivia about dishwater. They have found that the last two generations don’t like their dishwashing water nearly as hot as previous generations. Those older housewives, they said, wouldn’t wash dishes in anything less than boiling water. Today’s generation equates “hot” water to the hot water heater’s 95 degree water or even less if they have a dishwasher. Most dishwashers are considered good if their water even reaches to 150 or 170 degrees. And Grandma can wash in 200 degree water! I’ve heard that many of the old housewives had hands that were so tough and chapped from all the exposure to hot water in the washing of their clothes and dishes, that if they straightened their hands out, they would develop painful splits in the skins.
I don’t have particularly beautiful hands myself, but it’s not because I’ve pounded laundry or scrubbed dishes. I have to confess that dishwashing is one of the most depressing things I can think of. In household chores it ranks right up there with the other most-dreaded jobs of folding socks and organizing paperwork. It’s really silly, but washing dishes in water that has bits of food swirling in it is more disgusting to me than gutting a chicken! I don’t know why we each have simple little chores we blow up into dreaded mountains and then procrastinate upon. But it does seem as if it is those “little things” that really are the big things in life. I saw a quote from H. W. Shaw that says it even better: “It is the little bits of things that fret and worry us; we can dodge an elephant, but we can’t a fly.” When the Bible warns us to “Be careful for nothing, but in everything give thanks” it not only sounds like an appropriate warning, but also gives me a practical solution for my Dishwashing Blues: be thankful I have dishes to wash, it’s a sign we have eaten a meal!