I lost count on how many snacks my two children had on this day. I turn to place a dirty cup that one of my children just handed me in the sink, and once again I am betrayed by my motor memory. I stare down at an empty hole. We are updating our kitchen and in order to make the changes we want we have to live without a kitchen sink for a few days. The plumbers informed us the job required more of them than they originally thought, therefore being sinkless was going beyond the 24 hour period we had planned.
As I look at the gaping hole I am immediately annoyed at the inconvenience. Then I remind myself that this was our choice to begin this project. My mind then drifts to stories long forgotten. My grandmother had told me when she was about five years old growing up in rural Pennsylvania her parents built a new house on their farm. This new house was going to be equipped with all the necessities a family of 12 would need, minus electricity and indoor plumbing. When water was needed all my great-grandmother would have to do was go outside to the well, hand pump the amount of frigid water she needed, and carry it back into the house. Simple. All while raising her 10 children. I wonder how often they asked for snacks throughout the day, and how many cups she needed to wash because of said snacks.
Finally, in the late 1930’s right when my grandmother was to start high school, the house was updated to include a crank phone and it was wired for electricity. My great-grandfather was able to afford this during The Great Depression because he started a successful new business. His new source of income was taking rich businessmen from the Philadelphia area on hunting expeditions. Word got out and he became a successful guide through the Pennsylvania wilderness. He spent his hard eared money on electricity so he could start listening to the radio. Indoor plumbing was still not on the agenda.
The new crank phone gave my grandmother’s older sisters a lot of entertainment. It was a party line, so they spent time quietly listening to their neighbors’s conversations. My grandmother told me she remembers watching them filled with glee as they sat on the phone eavesdropping. They later retold what they heard filled with their own commentary. I imagine it was a form of social media for these teenage girls at the time. It does sound more intriguing that Twitter and Tik Tok.
Indoor plumbing did not make it into the house until the early 1950’s. My father tells me he was a small child when Pops’ house ultimately had running water. I wonder how my great-grandmother felt when she finally had a kitchen sink that allowed her to stay inside to get all the water she needed. Was there a sense of relief or concern about how things were changing? In this moment I realize that her time period was not that long ago. I feel I almost can reach back in time and touch her.
I am not sure why lately my mind tends to wander, and why my mind went down the path it did. I do not know why an empty space where a kitchen sink used to be took me to family stories that were buried in my memory. I do not know why, but I am sure glad it did.