Monday, March 17, 2014

In Which She Writes on Laundry

But first a spot of housekeeping. (I have always giggled when I am at conferences and an elderly gentleman comes to the microphone and makes that announcement. I know he has never worn an apron in his life. Actually, he usually tells us where the bathrooms are and the time for lunch.) I want to announce that my ankle is not broken. Indeed, it feels quite a bit better as I walk in a forwardly direction. As I try to turn it, however, it is incredibly painful and turning over in bed is still excruciatingly painful. In the pro column, however, my dryer is now humming like a top, and the repair man who turned up ten minutes early on Monday announced that in spite of its age, it was worth keeping for as long as I could—which is considerably longer than any appliance bought today.

I started thinking of what laundry meant in my youth.One day was always set aside for laundry—and that day was Monday. That way we could, in theory, eat the the leftover meat from Sunday's roast, though I am not sure there was a lot of meat, but some gravy and boiled potatoes filled us up. In truth, I don't remember much about the "washing" part of the day. When I was at school I missed it all and when I was on holiday there was not a lot of room in our small kitchen for me to observe the goings on. Because that is where the washing part was done. No laundry room for us. What I still refer to as "the whites" were boiled in a big pot on the stove top and other items were washed in the sink. I am pretty sure that at some point a portable machine that spun the washing around was placed on the draining board by the sink. Or maybe it was a dryer. One thing I do know: this function was performed early in the morning because it was important to get the clothes out to dry on the line before any other housewife in the street. That's how a woman's housewifery was measured.

I am much more familiar with the drying/ironing/airing facets of wash day. When I came home from school on a rainy day, washing was festooned over a clothes horse in front of the fire (it looked like this, not like a horse.) Often the house felt steamy like a sauna. If, however, the clothes had dried, we moved to ironing. I often helped out at this stage. The ironing board was moved into the dining room. The fire was there and it was, in fact, the room where all our living took place. And o, the things we ironed. We ironed towels, and dishcloths, and sheets, and every item of clothing. Sounds like a lot, and it was, but we had strict rules about clothes to be washed. Several  days worth of dirt constituted "dirty clothes".

I had left home before some of the labor saving devices of the 50's made their way into the house and I regret to say that because I didn't know better I was not as glad as I should have that my mother was freed from some of the plain drudgery. I am delighted with the invention of "no-iron" fabrics, though I regret that some of my children do no know one end of an iron from the other.

Now I wonder what else would make my life easier. I do still have a sore ankle!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two other appliances I cannot live without are the dishwasher and the microwave. I know we did just fine for decades without them, but I have come to rely so heavily on those, along with the washer and dryer.