Sunday, June 6, 2010


Remember when we did not have the luxury of automatic washing machines that spun clothes dry, clothes driers that removed wrinkles to decrease ironing and dishwashers that dried dishes spotless and had garbage disposals in them so that rinsing was unnecessary? For that matter, remember when Mom was the dishwasher and you were the spotless drier?

Our winterized home on Cape Cod had been reopened before our arrival by the same plumber who had drained it. We had been reassured in California by phone that "all was well." The cleaning girls had come and gone and the house was spotless. I called my friends and planned an opening lobster dinner party outside on the porch overlooking Barnstable Harbor. The night before the party my husband and I arrived home at midnight after a long flight with three cranky cats and multiple suitcases. The dishwasher was not working.

"Oh, the Mieli dishwasher is the very best. Top of the line," the appliance repairman said the next morning. I watched him push buttons and talk to a service operator for Meile over the phone while I drank my coffee. "However, they do not like the cold or to be shut down." "Since when does an appliance have likes and dislikes?" I responded. "This one is so advanced that it can practically fix itself." "So why doesn't it?" He ignored my question and went on for ten more minutes explaining the wonders of new electronics and their memory chips and tiny computer boards. Then concluded with, "Well, it needs a special tool to get the motor going. This is a very sensitive machine. The tool will have to be ordered and I'll call you when it comes in which will probably be in two weeks." This super-duper, top of the line machine was ruining my lobster dinner and my week. It was too late to cancel. The lobsters were ordered. The party must go on!

And it did. The views were glorious, the food awesome and the wine washed away memories of the broken dishwasher and the amount of work to come after the party. But when it was time to load the dishwasher I had to confess that I would be doing them by hand. "Get another bottle of wine," Jenny yelled. "We're doing these by hand just like the good 'ol days." And the production line reactivated memories of yester-year and washing dishes as a family. We laughed, sang, dried and finished two bottles of wine.

That evening on FaceBook I wrote about the post-party-dishwashing-line, and asked if anyone had ever encountered this "Miele magic tool." Many friends with Meile appliances expounded on its advanced technology but no one had heard of this tool. Then, I started receiving comments about how my hand washing experience had jogged memories of evenings around the kitchen sink. FaceBook friends remembered how Mom had washed while Sister dried, Brother put away, and Dad watched. As I read their memories, I felt grounded by the past. Had technology, created to save time, inadvertently been used to the detriment of the family unit? These comments on my FaceBook page were the birth of an idea that still grows today. The "Remember When.." post. For the next two weeks I posted You Tube videos of songs from the past like the Beatles and Rolling Stones and added, "Remember When this came out? What were you doing?" These songs touched off strong feelings of nostalgia. My stomach tightened as I smelled the gardenias from a deceased friend's wedding during the song "Hey Jude". "Angie" by the Stones brought back memories of popcorn and laughter from my College dorm room. The memories reminded me of how important the past is when facing a future that appears controlled by much that is unseen...wireless networks and nanobites.

Two weeks later the repairman was failing in his attempt to perform magic on my dishwasher with his nifty tool when he suddenly yelled, " I found the problem. Hear that?" He shook the machine, reached into a small container beside the catch pan and held the culprit up for inspection. "Well, look at that!" he declared with glee.

"Are you telling me an olive pit brought this 'incredibly advanced piece of machinery' to its knees and me to the sink to wash dishes? So, you didn't really need that magic tool and I didn't need to wait two weeks for my dishwasher?"

"No 'mam." was all he said.

I frowned as I turned the tiny dark pit over in my had. It looked non the worse for wear. I couldn't say the same for the dishwasher. Something so small that had been around before the birth of Jesus had brought technology to its knees and confounded those men and their magic tools. A smile crossed my face as I headed for my computer. My FaceBook friends would get a kick out of this. "Remember When we had to scrape the dishes before we washed them and then later, before we put them in those old clunky dishwashers?...

Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos is the author of SURVIVING CANCERLAND
Follow her on Twitter and FB from her web page.