Thanksgiving Superpower

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s superpower surfaces during Thanksgiving

Growing up in Texas, the dishwasher held a special place in our house—it was a modern miracle worthy of our respect.  And Aunt Shirley, my mother’s oldest sister, was the Master.  Her loading skills were legendary.  In short, she was a Dishwasher Superhero, and I looked forward all year to that one time when I would get to apprentice at her side—Thanksgiving.

Regardless of the rotating location of the family feast—from Houston to Baton Rouge—once the tummies were stuffed, Aunt Shirley leapt into action.  While my cousins settled in to watch the Cowboys football game on TV, I snuck into the kitchen to watch Aunt Shirley work her magic.

She spun around the kitchen like a ballerina—in went the greasy turkey platter, the grimy green bean casserole dish, and the dessert plates smudged with pumpkin goodness.  Next, she loaded the salad bowls, flatware and ice tea glasses.  Before adding the soap and closing the doors, Aunt Shirley paused and winked at me sitting on a kitchen stool.

“What about the copper carrots?” I asked, pointing to a dish with the remains of one of my mother’s least successful contributions, a murky marinade of BBQ sauce, ketchup and brown sugar.

Given the packed dishwasher, I couldn’t imagine one more item being able to fit.

“Want me to wash that in the sink?” I volunteered.

Aunt Shirley smiled and shook her head.

“By hand?  Over my dead body!  Now you listen to me, young man.  Everything can fit in the dishwasher. Watch closely.  It’s just a matter of rearranging.”

With a flick of her apron, Aunt Shirley turned to do battle like Wonder Woman.  A wave of her hand over the coffee mugs and a slight tug to the trifle bowl, and suddenly there was space for the errant dish.  After Aunt Shirley punched the button, the machine roared to life with the familiar sound of pulsating water, and she gave me a kiss on the forehead.

“Remember, it’s just a matter of rearranging.”

For ten years in Alphabet City, I cooked Thanksgiving without the assistance of a mechanical dishwasher.  And when we moved to our very own Manhattan brownstone, the thing I most looked forward to was not the tripling of available bathrooms, not the floors of sun-filled rooms, or even the Mexican-tiled patio with outdoor fireplace.  No, the thing I most dreamed about was the GE Nautilus 2000 we had installed.

A few months after moved, 18 people joined us for our first Pilgrims’ feast.  Standing in the kitchen surveying the plates of damage, Juan Pablo looked worried.

“There’s no way that’s all going in there,” he said.

I rolled up my sleeves and channeled my inner Aunt Shirley.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll handle this.  It’s all just a matter of rearranging.”


Filed under Background

2 responses to “Thanksgiving Superpower

  1. Laura Huddleston

    Hi, Sir!
    Every Thanksgiving, I think of copper carrots and Aunt Shirley’s dishwasher powers. Loved reading this again.


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