Lily stood at the sink, running hot water. She watched a deer out in the meadow through the kitchen window. Just beyond the meadow was a creek and the forest. A quick glance—the sink was full of hot water and bubbles. Just perfect. 

She opened the doors under the sink and pulled out the garbage can. She picked up the first (of many) plates and scraped food into the can. Aunt Mabel had taken three huge scoops of the wiggly Jello salad, but apparently only ate a minuscule spoonful. No one else ate it.  But Aunt Mabel would cry if it wasn’t made for family dinner. 

Apparently, the family didn’t care for the pasta salad either. Perhaps it was the artichoke hearts, that strange exotic ingredient from California. She scraped it from plate after plate, straight into the trash. Everyone had nearly licked the potato salad clean off their plates, leaving no trace. 

The plates were gorgeous, white with a blue scene painted in the middle. A present from her mother-in-law, upon her marriage. Mama Henderson had not mentioned that hosting the family dinner every week went along with the set. Or that the person who hosted did all the cooking. All. The. Cooking. 

Scrape the plate, place it gently in the water. Someday these plates would be gifted to her own daughter, if they had one. If not, they would go to her son’s wife. Just like they had come to her. Can’t put them in the dishwasher—oh no. They might chip. Or the pattern would come off. They were delicate heirlooms after all. Lily snorted at the thought. 

After the plates were in the sink, she methodically began washing and rinsing them. She had a large bath towel on the counter to lay them on. She had cried when Mama Henderson (not Mom, not Mother, not Mrs. Henderson.“Just call me Mama Henderson, honey.”) gifted her the set. She cried now, too. 

Warm hands circled Lily’s waist. A plate dropped, the china ringing against the sink. A crack blossomed across the plate. Her breath caught in her chest, fighting for a way out.  Michael moved her from in front of the sink, guiding her off to the side. Lily started breathing again. It was Michael’s fault. It was Michael’s mother.

He stacked the plates, took them to the backyard. Then he came for the bowls. The platters. The serving bowls. And the gravy boat. He came back in, grabbed her hand and brought her outside. The china was piled up on the picnic bench, dirty and clean mixed together. She’d have to wash them all over again. “Have a seat,” he told her. “I’ll be right back.” 

He disappeared inside, came back with an opened bottle of wine. No glasses. He took a swig from the bottle, then handed it to her. Oh, he had popped champagne. The bubbles tickled her nose.  Michael pulled over the small plastic pool they had bought for the dogs at their last house. It had sat empty since the move, what with the creek and all. He left the blue pool at the corner of the patio, half in shadow. 

One plate in his big strong hands. With determination, he threw it down into the pool. The noise startled her, almost as much as the action. This was an option? Destruction? Saying no? No to gelatin mold “salad”? No to guilt? They could say no to guilt? Taking a swig from the bottle, Lilly stood up and grabbed the gravy boat. She hated gravy. Time to start saying no. It was just about as gross as the Jello salad. It crashed in the pool, broke into shards. Plates. Guilt. Bowls. The rounds of silence. Serving dishes. Now, what would Mama Henderson serve her insulting compliments on? Dessert plates and desperation. All went loudly into the night. 

Next Sunday would come, along with his relatives. 

Let them eat pizza. 

About the author:

Wynelda Ann Deaver lives and writes in Northern California. She enjoys going on adventures with friends and family, which somehow end up in stories. The seeds of the story Family Dinner may or may not have come from an old family story in which Wynelda’s auntie took her bridal china into the backyard with a shovel and buried it. The why’s of the story are lost to time, but Wynelda firmly believes it was too much work to just get out of doing the dishes. To find out more about Wynelda and her merry band of real (and imaginary) misfits go to

Feature image by Tom Crew on Unsplash