I punched in and out of a timeclock in the kitchen, right outside of the pantry. The machine made a tiny buzzing sound when it stamped my card. It felt very official. And very intimidating. The hallway that housed the timeclock led to the main kitchen area, adjacent to the dishwashing room. The floors were smooth brick red tiles with dark grout. There was a gigantic bread mixer, commercial ovens, and massive pots and pans that weighed a ton. I was twelve.
The retreat center was on a lake, and from the large, wide dining room you could see the water and hot pink orange sunsets. It was our job to set the tables for meals, and bus and wash the dishes when conference guests were done. The kitchen annex with the dishwasher was steamy and damp, and smelled of detergent and wet food. It housed a super industrial conveyor style Hobart, the kind that could whip through a single rack of dishes in three minutes flat. Slide it in. Pull the lid down. Steam. Pull the lid up. Slide it to the right. Clean. Disinfect. Dry. There were a couple of sinks, too. One for you to rinse the dishes, and load the racks, and one that held the pots and pans. I dreaded the pots and pans. But still, I scrubbed on.
I was the youngest of the crew, as the rest were teenagers and they all just put up with me because my mom was a cook. I knew I was annoying because I was slow, cautious. Not helping them get their work done quickly. The day I broke a plate I cried, and they couldn’t conceal their frustration any longer. Stop crying, it’s no big deal.
And of course it wasn’t, to them.