For the few years that I had been able to observe the process of washing clothing in the utility room of our small house, I thoroughly enjoyed the production. First the large round tub-like thing was rolled out of its storage place in the corner and filled with water and detergent. The clothing was carefully added, one piece at a time. It seemed to me that our clothing was small enough to just put it all in at the same time but my mother cautioned me that our white clothing would not stay white if I gave in to that temptation. Okay, well, I did not mind it taking longer at all! Once plugged in, the swishing began, Back and forth, back and forth. How I loved to see those suds bubbling up and the different pieces of clothing surface and dive with the turbulence of the machine. When it had washed in the suds long enough, the hose under the tub was released to drain out the dirty, soapy water. I will now skip to the end and my absolutely favorite part of the process here. Mother swung that wringer into place and began to feed one of my dripping, totally wet, little shirts between the revolving two rollers. I waited on the coming out side, aware of the squishing sound as my shirt made its way slowly through the two rollers. Each and every piece of clothing that traversed this path emerged flat as a colorful wet pancake and it thrilled me to no end. I just loved wash day.
Next, the basin of wet laundry would be taken out to the clotheslines Daddy had hung right by our back door. Sometimes I sat on the grass near her to watch her hang things up to dry. It was a time I could talk to her, if I had anything on my mind just waiting for a quiet time to have a captive audience. But, even if I didn’t have anything special to talk over with her, I enjoyed the smell of the freshly cleaned laundry gently moving in the breeze, as one by one each piece was fastened to the line with a wooden clothespin.
I so looked forward to the time when I would be old enough to really help do the laundry. I wanted to run that wringer myself, not just stand back and wait until the shirt had come far enough through the wringer to guide the “pancake’ into the waiting basin. I thought my mother would be happy then, too, because she would not have to keep telling me not to stand so close to the wringer or my fingers would get smashed. I was wrong, though, because such joy would never be mine.
I did not know much about an “automatic washer and dryer” but what I did know I did not like. Not only did the clothing go inside the square metal machine that had no hose under it, but it had a lid that needed to be closed before the drum of the washer worked. What fun was that, I moaned. There was nothing to see at all for the entire process. One could hear the loud sounds of the machine as it cycled through the various parts of the process but, unless the hose at the back slipped off, there was not a single thing for a kid to see. Worst of all, there was no wringer anywhere! It had some way to throw the shirts and stuff around so that they stuck to the sides of the machine when it was time to open the lid, but it was all over without any notice given to just how it happened. Drying the clothing was even worse. No sitting outside next to Mom. No fresh smell of a summer sun on the clean pajamas that night. Nothing of the old joy could be found as I watched my mother taking the wet clothes from the top of the washing machine and shoving them through the front door of the drying machine. The door was not made of glass, either, as it sometimes would be in the years to come. There was nothing at all for me to see or do in the entire process. Now, laundry day was just like any other day in the life of a kid—nothing special about it.
Then, I spotted a space that I had not seen before in my sadness over the change and it made all the difference in the world—my world!
****My Special Place, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow