Dish washing

By : 译言网|Updated: 2011-11-07

周日吃过早饭后,父亲总会围上印有赛车图案的围裙说:“都走吧,我来洗盘子!”然后哼着民谣快乐地开工。我想,一个男孩的父亲穿上一件围裙一定会让人感觉不习惯。但我没有想到,有朝一日父亲会把这项任务交给我。

那是八月的最后一个周日。在我们从教堂回家的途中,父亲的心情似乎格外不错。“汤米,每个男孩子都需要承担责任,现在到了你承担更多家务的时候了。”

人们经常说在父亲和儿子中间存在着一种特殊的默契。当我马上要发火时他回到厨房中。他的右手拿着那件旧围裙。“我想让你拥有它,汤米。它不会使你的衣服变湿。”在我表示抗议前,他已把围裙系到了我身上。“谢谢你,儿子。你母亲和我都对此很感激。”

On Sundays my father always wore that dull gray apron – the one with the race cars all over it. The ritual began after breakfast when Dad always announced: "Go ahead everyone. I'll take care of the dishes!" With that my mother disappeared into the folds of the Sunday paper. Off came the suit coat he had worn to church that morning. Up went the shirtsleeves. On went that apron. For the next hour Dad did the dishes, singing ballads like "I Had a Hat When I Came In" and "Who Put the Chow in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?"

I suppose it was strange for a boy's father to wear an apron – even one with race cars – but I never thought much of it until the day that Dad broke with tradition. It was the last Sunday in August. My father seemed in an expansive mood as we walked home from church together.

"Tommy," he said letting my name roll off his tongue. My mind raced ahead of his words: The birds and the bees? A new bike? A part-time job?

"There comes a time in every boy's life when he must take on responsibilities." This was important. I might even get to back the car out of the driveway.

Dish washing 父亲让我洗盘子

"Responsibilities?" I asked.

"Yes. It's time you took a greater role in the household." Power tools? Boss my baby brother?

"Starting today, I want you to do the dishes on Sunday morning so your mother and I can work the crossword puzzle together."

"The dishes!?"

"Anything wrong with taking over the dishes, son?"

I started to say something about a man's job or woman's work, but I knew immediately that my protests would fall on deaf ears.

I didn't taste a bit of breakfast that morning. Dad seemed in a jovial mood as he described an exceptional Yankee game seen through the eyes of Mel Allen on the radio last night.

"Mickey Mantle drove the ball right over the center field wall," he said. "Just a straight line climb in right out of the stadium." He looked out the window as if trying to pick the ball out of the cloud formations. I tried to imagine Mickey Mantle wearing an apron.

Suddenly, everything grew quiet. My sister began to clear the table. My brother was scraping the last of the egg from his plate. And then that ancient family ritual that had filled so many Sunday mornings came to an end. My father announced: "Let's go read the paper, Hon."

"Aren't you doing the dishes?" my mother asked fretfully.

"Your oldest son has generously offered to fill the position."

My brother and sister stopped cold. So this was what my life had come to. A dark angel sat on my left shoulder and reminded me that I could hit a baseball farther than anyone in my class. I could bench-press my weight. I knew three declensions in Latin, the language of Caesar. Ask me to run through a rainstorm. Command me to ride the roller coaster – backward. These things I would do. But I could never do those dishes. There was nothing left but to refuse.

People often say there is a special chemistry between a father and a son. He came back into the kitchen just as I was about to storm out. He had loosened his tie and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt – ready to relax. In his right hand was the old apron.

"I want you to have this, Tommy. It'll keep your clothes from getting wet." And before I could mount a protest, he had put the thing on me. "Thanks, Son. Your mother and I appreciate this."

With that he disappeared into the Sunday paper. I looked down at the plastic. It had seen better days. I could see my dad reaching for the dishes. The dark angel flew off. Soon I was singing about Mrs. Murphy's chowder. The words came out of nowhere. And out of nowhere I knew the kind of man I wanted to be.