Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wash day

Today is laundry day.

I love doing the laundry. There's just something about putting dirty clothes into the machine with sweet-smelling soap and fabric softener, and taking them out all clean and fresh.

But it got me thinking about laundry days of bygone times. Back to when I was washing diapers in a wringer washer and hanging them on the line to dry, like banners announcing there was a baby in the house. Putting sheets on the bed, fresh from flapping in the summer breeze.  Dishtowels that were bleached and sanitized by the sun.

Come to think of it, doing the laundry has always been my favorite household chore.

My mother tells the story of hanging clothes on the line in our back yard, and the time she cleaned out her cedar chest. Deciding her wedding veil would benefit from a freshening breeze before repacking it away, she hung it over two lines to keep it from touching the ground.

A little while later, from the kitchen window, she gasped as she observed my twin sisters rolling a big rubber ball through the loop of the veil. One twin on one end, one twin on the other end, laughing in delight as the ball rolled through the veil.

When I was 19, my girlfriend, Jeanette, and I shared an apartment. It was in a very large house on the west side of St. Paul, divided into various apartments, ours being on the first floor.  We were free to use the wringer washer in the basement. It was one of those old, dark and damp cement basements. A true basement.

Since the apartment rent took most of our meager earnings as young secretaries at the Great Northern Railroad Company, the washing machine allowed us to save a dollar or two and avoid a trip to the laundromat. 

But we were frightened to be down there in the dark, dingy basement. A stranger could easily enter the basement door and accost us in any manner.  If we did the laundry together, we would both be attacked. And who would hear our piercing screams?

So it was decided that one of us (me) would do the laundry, while the other stood guard in our apartment directly above, kitchen knife in hand. Ready to attack and defend.

It is a wonder we didn't kill each other.  And we never did see a lurking stranger. Or another single soul.

Of course, laundry days of old, with clothes made of cotton, led to ironing days. My least favorite chore.

My son and daughter-in-law recently bought a new washer and dryer. They do everything but cook dinner, and I'm surprised they don't do that. The washer senses the weight of the clothes to adjust the water level automatically, and when you push start, it lights up like it's taking off for Mars. The dryer has a steam setting, along with about twenty more options. No more dry cleaning bills.

The buzzer has sounded on my humble washer here in Mesa, so it's time to put the next load in.

It is Tuesday today.  I thought Mondays were "wash days."  Didn't they always used to be?