Stumbling into the kitchen for my early-morning coffee, I kick a dish towel to the corner, out of the path of the traffic soon to come. As I formulate my battle plan to beat the morning rush, I ponder an old, unanswered question. What is it that drives dish towels to theI formulate my battle plan to beat the morning rush floor from whichever spot they are hung or perched? Is it the Force of Dish Towel Gravity, or maybe an undercover conspiracy of the hook companies? At times, I fear it’s the absolute statement of my poverty of housekeeping skills. If the balabusta police were to enter unannounced, this would be the crime for which I’d be convicted. Not the piles of unfolded laundry, not the Legos mixed haphazardly with toy cars and doll clothes, not even the layer of grime coating the bathroom tiles.

But the dish towels.

Growing up, the towels in my mother’s home had a funny way of finding their way to the floor as well. I would pick them up time and again, wondering to myself, to my mother, or to anyone else: Why? Why were these towels never in their rightful place? A few seconds is all it takes, so I’d remind my mother knowingly, certain that I would do it better. My towels weren’t going to turn into shmattas or catch spills from their convenient location under the table. Not in my house! Guests weren’t going to have to scrounge around looking for something decent to dry their hands with. Beautiful hand towels folded neatly next to each sink, complemented by three proud dish towels—red, yellow and blue would hang daintily from unobtrusive little hooks in the corner. Ah. A beautiful Jewish home.

Shortly after we bought our apartment, I bumped into an old friend in the grocery store. “Do you know anywhere I can get hooks for my hand towels? I need something simple, but strong, to keep them from falling on to the floor?”

“You can try the plastic suction-cup type. They’re cheap, easy and you don’t have to worry about making holes in the walls.”

“Oh, no. Not that. I’ve tried them, and they just fall off all of the time. I mean, I wash dishes constantly. Breakfast, lunch and dinner; there’s no escape.

“Really? Well actually, I hardly use them. We just put in two dishwashers with our new kitchen. My husband said that if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it. He’s right. After all, what’s a little more money when we’re pouring so much money into this kitchen, anyway?”

I smiled politely, as I cleared my throat.

“Have a great day.” I said quickly as I pushed my wagon to the next aisle, trying to escape before she saw the tears that were begging to fall.

Isn’t that thoughtful of her husband. Two dishwashers; what a dream. Well, my husband didn’t suggest that to me. Nor did he suggest that we pour money into our new kitchen. Nor did he suggest any kitchen at all. We have the simple kitchen that our apartment came with. And it doesn’t even have hooks for my old towels.

As I sat the next day, the next week, the next year washing my mountains of dishes, occasionally images of my friend would sneak their way through the soap and water and bubbles into my kitchen. Scrubbing the ketchup and hummus off the plates, drying the glasses that were still a bit smoggy and water-stained, I envisioned her as she took her sparkling china and gleaming glassware out of her dishwasher. She was smiling, of course. Her husband was right, I thought to myself. A few dollars back then would have saved me hundreds of hours of work—of washing, of drying, of rough worn hands and water-drenched sleeves. And of towels falling on the floor.

We bumped into each other occasionally at theShe always seemed so organized, so together grocery, at pickup or in the park. She always seemed so organized, so together, until one day I heard rumors. They were moving out of town. That’s strange. They seemed so happy and settled here. With their nice family and lovely home, and especially with those dishwashers. They were really smart, always thinking ahead. Then I heard that she was getting divorced.

No home. No husband. Her ever thoughtful husband was no longer with her. As the water cascaded over my rough dry fingers that night, the scent of dishwashing liquid perfumed the air. The grease on the plates shone more brilliantly than the most precious gem. I was the richest person in the world, as it says in Ethics of Our Fathers: “The rich person is he who’s happy with his lot.” My husband walked in, and I viewed him with new eyes; my knight in shining armor who’d been with me through the storms of the children’s growth and my own. Who’d smiled at me when I didn’t deserve to be smiled at and listened when I kvetched once again.

Towels were scattered all over the room. One on the table, one draped over a chair, the third on the floor, waiting to be poured on, stepped on or chewed by the baby. You can’t fight your genes. My dish towels and I are learning that slowly. From their comfortable positions, I saw them smiling, and I smiled back—knowing that they were in their place of honor in this beautiful Jewish home.