The Day the Dishwasher Broke


After my husband and I married, we were faced with the challenge of trying to blend two families into one. Nothing seemed to work. There were seven strong personalities that had to adjust to each other, fractured egos that wouldn’t give in to each other’s needs, and jealous rivalries all jammed into one big trying-to-be-happy family. Many times the bickering made me fear that it just wasn’t going to work. The emotional strain was getting to be too much.

And then the dishwasher broke. It was the last straw during a summer of “if it’s not one thing, it’s another.” In June the oven had broken, in July the air conditioner, and then the family car. Now we would have to wash dishes by hand until repair money was available.

When we announced our decision at the supper table, we were met by moans and groans. But after dinner, as my husband filled the huge dishpan with hot suds and I gathered up clean dishtowels, helpers trickled in. Soon the whole family was sudsing, rinsing, drying, and putting away dishes in a kind of silent rhythm. Jokes were told, stories exchanged, and bickering failed to materialize as friendly talk replaced arguments. Time seemed to slow down, and getting out of the kitchen didn’t seem so important. Calmness filled the room, and a new kind of peace came into our home—the peace of working happily together.

A couple of weeks later, my husband called from work to say we could afford to fix the dishwasher. Everyone was ecstatic, and convenience replaced the times together in the kitchen. But for a few days we had caught a glimpse of what it was like to be a happy family, and we liked it. So we continued to build, gradually, on other things that brought us together.

That was years ago. Most of the children are on their own now, raising their own families. But we have learned to get along and enjoy each other, and working together is still helping to make our relationships, like the dishes we do, a little brighter.

[illustration] Illustration by Steve Kropp

Melanie Silvester is a member of the Clayton Valley Second Ward, Concord California Stake.