What I was remembering last night was the occasional joy of coming home from school to find that big dishpan sitting on the kitchen table, filled with Mammaw's freshly baked sugar cookies. She always sprinkled a little cinnamon on top along with the sugar, and the wonderful aroma of those cookies would greet me as soon as I opened the front door.
The dishpan was also our family's popcorn bowl. We popped corn the old-fashioned way, shaking the kernels in hot oil over a gas burner until they'd popped so high that the lid on the pot began to rise. Last night I remembered one time when I was the evening's corn popper. I'd put two whole potfuls of popped corn into the dishpan, sprinkled it all with salt, and poured an entire stick of melted butter over it. As I carried the dishpan into the living room where my family watched TV and waited, I caught my toe on the edge of a little throw rug and spilled the entire buttery mess right in the middle of Mammaw's good living-room rug. You might not think that would be a good memory, but it is. I remember that I didn't get scolded.
That old dishpan was still on my mind this morning, so I went looking for this photo:
I was drying that day, and my little sister (little enough that she had to stand on a stool) was washing. You can see the old dishpan in front of her. You can also see an Ivory Snow box behind the dishpan. I'm thinking this picture was taken in 1954 or '55, more than a decade before Madge the Manicurist convinced us all to switch to liquid detergent.
All my memories of Mammaw's dishpan are related to growing up in Missouri, but dishwashing wasn't a daily chore for us until we were older, after we'd moved to Texas. By then I was in high school and my sister was in junior high. We did the supper dishes every night in a divided sink that made the use of a dishpan unnecessary.
The thing I remember best about the nightly dishwashing ritual in Texas is that my sister and I, and our new stepsister when she was with us, sang in harmony as we washed and dried. Until this very day I think we sounded fantastic. What with the glorious sound of our blended voices, I'll never understand why my stepdad used to ask us to be quiet so he could hear the news. (I wonder if my sister will back me up on this.)
I have some of the songs we sang together in my current iTunes collection. I still love them today, though it's the associated memories I love now more than the music. Here are some representative samples from our nightly repertoire: