Fond Memories – Washing Clothes with My Mom: Occur at Unexpected Times
I was raised in a family of fourteen people in a home with only one bathroom. Needless to say, scheduling bath time in my home was more than a simple task. When I was seven years old I learned the only way to get sufficient bath time was to wake before my siblings. My mother gave me an old wind-up clock so I could wake-up early.
The first morning I used the alarm I woke at five-thirty, traipsed downstairs as quietly as possible, and took my bath. While I bathed I heard Dad stirring in my parents bedroom which was adjacent to the bathroom. After I completed my bath I started back up stairs when I heard a buzzing in the basement.
I snuck to the basement landing and looked around the corner of the stairs. Mom was bent over our dryer pulling clothes out and setting them on a table. She was singing. Without turning around she said, “What are you doing?”
“I heard buzzing,” I said. “What are you doing?”
“Washing clothes,” she replied.
“Four days a week,” she replied.
Mom explained that she woke at four o’clock every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to wash clothes. She explained it was necessary to keep us in clean clothes.
“Dad’s up too,” I said.
“I know. He does paperwork while I do laundry. It’s the only time the house is quiet enough to concentrate.”
“Why were you singing?” I asked.
“I might as well enjoy my work as not.”
Mom still used an old wringer washer, but she was absolutely thrilled that she and Dad had scraped enough pennies together to get a clothes dryer. She wouldn’t have to hang clothes outside during winter anymore.
That dryer wasn’t vented to the outside like dryers today. It was vented to the front of the dryer, and the lint trap had to be cleaned every load.
“Can I help?” I asked.
Mom started another load in the dryer and placed a large towel on the basement floor in front of the dryer. “Why don’t you lay down and catch a nap until we’re ready for another load.”
The air from the dryer was warm and comfortable. I slept until the dryer buzzed. I was thrilled when Mom taught me to clean the lint trap and to place the dry clothes on a folding table. She made me feel useful. I remember how she complemented me on a job well done. (Although I remember dropping most of the clothes before I got them on the table.)
When my older sisters woke at six o’clock they took their baths and then helped Mom carry the folded clothes upstairs. (That was a ritual that I hadn’t noticed until that morning.)
The next morning I set the alarm at four o’clock. I hurried through my bath and rushed to the basement to help Mom. Mom placed a towel on the floor. I slept until the dryer buzzed, then cleaned the lint filter, and stacked clothes on the table. I slept between loads while Mom sang, folded clothes, and washed another load. That was a routine we kept every wash day for several years.
I look back on those days with fond memories. My parents taught my siblings and me that work wasn’t a hardship. Sometimes when I’m working I’ll catch myself singing a song I learned in that old basement and smile.
It’s amazing to me how seemingly insignificant moments create fond memories that last a lifetime.
Copyright 2010 J-me
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