When was the last time an advertisement warned you of the dreaded dishpan hands? I cannot even remember when, but I have in my garage my mother’s old dishpan which is of porcelain enameled metal. The next time I see my granddaughters, I plan to ask them if they know what a dishpan is. I bet they don’t.
Was it called enamelware? It used to be a common material for mugs and pans before plastic took over. The white enamel would chip off with a hard bump leaving the dark blue metal underneath, and the dishpan has it’s share. I assumed the material had disappeared from use until fairly recently I realized all of our kitchen appliances, stove, dishwasher, and such, are made of the same stuff.
I keep the dishpan because it is handy to mix small batches of things like cement or potting soil. But the main reason is—and I kid you not—I remember getting a bath in it. It seems impossible, but I think it was because the dishpan was always there, hanging on a nail just outside the back door in a shed-like back porch. Every time I saw it, I was reminded of past bath times, so now maybe I only remember that I remembered.
Jean Shepherd once described a memory exercise. Imagine yourself in the kitchen of your childhood. Look around. Where are you standing? Where is the table? What is on it? Where are the doors? Look at the opposite wall. What do you see? Look down at the floor. What is it made of? What color is it? What pattern does it have? You will be amazed at the details you can recall.
The feel of the dishpan’s edge, the chipped spots, and the hole to hang it by are all very familiar. I remember sitting in it in the kitchen sink with the big faucet coming out from the wall in front of my face. When the water got cold, my mother would add a little more hot, but from a teakettle, not the faucet. The hot water tank in the cellar was only fired up for bigger needs. She would even swish around the leftover slivers of soap bars in a little wire basket on a handle. When I was clean, she would sit me on a towel spread out on the ridged drain board that was part of the sink and pat me dry. I remember the whole procedure.
At the end of my bath, I would get dressed and go out to one of our high school sock hops, as described in the 11/22/2005 posting. (Okay, that part I am kidding.)