Were she alive today, I might alter that saying just a bit: "Washing dishes can bring wishes" - by which I mean that there is something about washing dishes that is meditative which can inspire wishes.
I'm not just talking about the wish that all the dishes would be done sooner - that some wonderful Sabrina witch person would come in, twinkle her nose and finish the job magically.
Although, there is that.
I'm talking about the magic that happens in the midst of washing dishes where you suddenly find yourself in the midst of a memory, or a thought or new idea, or a song, or a prayer.
I especially love the magic that happens while washing great mounds of dishes after a holiday or birthday or special family event.
It's all about women in the kitchen, one with her hands in hot, soapy water, another with a dish towel in her hand, someone else scraping and organizing plates, glasses and utensils, and, perhaps, yet another woman putting everything away in their right place.
I asked her how it feels to be 80 - a question dear friends of long standing can ask each other without sounding like being in the midst of an interview with Katie Couric.
Lois thought for a moment - as is her way - and said, "Really, except for a few more aches and pains in the morning, I feel no different than when I was 60."
Eighty is the new sixty.
Gives me hope.
Her beloved spouse Sheri was also surprised by the party which delighted me because no one usually gets anything past Sheri.
Not no one. Not no how. Not ever.
Except this time. Ha!
That was because our dear friend and host for the celebration dinner, Penny, and I were positively scrupulous about our planning. Neither one of us dared call either Sheri or Lois that week for fear that we'd say something - in a certain way, with a certain tone - and Sheri would pick up on it.
It's not that we couldn't trust Sheri with our little secret. We most certainly could. It's that we really wanted to surprise Sheri, too.
They were the first to greet and surprise Lois and Sheri. And then, after a few moments, I came down the back stairs into the kitchen.
For as long as I live, I will never forget the mouth-open, momentary confused look on both their faces as I entered the room.
It. Was. Absolutely. Priceless.
It made the whole 8 hour trip - from DE to NJ by car and NJ to Boston by train and back again in a 72 hour period of time - worth it.
Oh, and then there was the food. O.M.G.!!! The food!
You have to understand. Penny is Greek. That's a lot like being Italian or Portuguese but the food is even more exquisite and abundant - if you can imagine. If you can't then you should stop reading right now.
I don't think there is a word in the Mediterranean for "enough". If there is, it probably translates to "more". Or, maybe, "abundance".
There were two of everything: Two appetizers (as if we needed it with the glorious fragrance in her kitchen) - a cheesy bread thingy sliced into small, individual rounds, and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and covered with a sweet sauce that was baked in the oven for 45 minutes.
There were two home made "bunt breads" which we tore off in great pieces and devoured. Good lord, it was so tasty! You didn't even need butter, but of course, I slathered my piece(s) with the creamy-sweet stuff. See also: Mediterranean for "enough".
There were two veggies: An amazing carrot puree and a huge pan of potatoes and cauliflower which were baked with a creamy-cheesy sauce.
Oh, and an equally huge pan of noodles that were also baked with a a creamy-cheesy sauce.
And, of course, two main courses: A shrimp dish with lots of garlic, wine, fresh tomato and feta cheese, and four - count 'em four - pork rolls cooked in a plum sauce. (Mind you, there were only seven of us at the table.)
Dessert? Of course. There was a home made raspberry birthday cake, along with some home made very light, lacy cookies with almonds. While we were scoffing that down with our coffee or tea, Penny also opened two boxes of chocolates - a Whitman Sampler and a box of Truffles.
You know. Lest we should all starve and waste away.
The dinner party was scheduled for 3 PM. We ate around 5 PM. Everyone left around 8 or so. And then, it was time to do the dishes.
Penny and I worked in the kitchen until 10:45 PM. Mind you, that was under constant complaint from Penny who kept insisting that I go to bed - or "go write something" - and leave her with the clean up.
No. Way. In. Hell.
I must say that we had a delightful time. I can't tell you what we talked about, exactly. Oh, I remember a conversation about church - Penny frets over her Greek Orthodox Church which "only" has about 150 people in the pews of a Sunday. That's less than a third of her memories of the church of her childhood.
"What can we do to bring people back to church?" That was the question underneath our conversations about church. That seems to be a question being asked across all of Western Christendom, so it was not an unfamiliar conversation.
As we alternately talked and listened to each other, my mind would occasionally drift back to my grandmother's kitchen which looked an awful lot like Penny's. Not as modern, of course. No garbage disposal. No dishwasher. But, she, too, had two ovens. And, a HUGE sink.
My grandmother would often sing as she washed dishes - she had a beautiful voice - and so I learned some of the songs from Portugal and some of the hymns she sang as a child which we continued to sing in our small immigrant neighborhood church.
She would also tell stories from her childhood, her arms elbow-deep in hot, soapy water, while we listened as we waited like midwives to be passed a plate or a pot to wipe dry and pass on to another person who was waiting to put them away.
It was magical and mysterious to me how a great mound of plates and piles of glasses and utensils and pots would slowly disappear. I suspect that's because we weren't really watching them. The eyes of our minds and hearts would be looking at the picture she was drawing with her words. The ears of our souls were being carried away on the sound of her beautiful voice singing the songs of her youth and her faith and her country.
It occurred to me, as I was standing in Penny's kitchen, that I think my sexual orientation - along with my perspective on how the world works - became shaped and formed in my grandmother's kitchen.
Some may "blame" sexual orientation on "nature". Others, on "nurture".
I think it was the dishes. (Wouldn't you just love to see what the folks from Exodus will do with that one!)
I don't hate men. I'm quite fond of many men and am blessed to have a few very, very dear male friends who will forever have a piece of my heart. And yes, many of them are, in fact, heterosexual.
Friends without benefits.
If given my druthers, I prefer the company of women. I love the sound of a woman's laughter. I love the way women think. Relationally. Communally. In circles that complete themselves if you are patient. I love the way we tell stories - and the stories we have to tell.
I don't know if men have an analogous situation or circumstance of "bonding". I remember my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins sitting on the porch after dinner, smoking cigars and cigarettes and drinking my grandfather's homemade brandy.
Maybe it was the same for them. I don't know. I hope so. We were never allowed on the porch when the men were out there, after dinner. I never felt jealous. I didn't want to be with them. Truth be told, they were never allowed in my grandmother's kitchen while we were doing dishes.
I couldn't imagine a better place to be.
I love all my sisters in the Spirit of being a woman - lesbian, bi or straight - but the ones who are lasting friends are the ones with whom I've done dishes.
One of my friends gave me a little sign I have in my kitchen, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Washing dishes may well be one of the rituals by which women prepare themselves for that eventuality. And, I suspect, we're never stronger than when we ask for help. Thankfully, we know how.
Therein lies the truth of the old saying that "A woman's work is never done."
We're always practicing. Always listening. Always learning - about the world and God and Jesus and each other and being a woman - and mother and daughter and sister - and singing in the face of the drudgery of life and how to share the load so the work gets done.
And always, it seems, while doing dishes.