Monday, February 28, 2011


For much longer than one childhood, every Monday was the day Mother did the laundry. She would gather up all the clothes on a sheet on the living room floor, grab the edges and bundle it all up, Santa-like. If she had been a little kid with a gigantic nose and the sheet had been a huge handkerchief with a big stick through the bundle, she would have looked a lot like Snoopy running away from home, and it's possible she had those thoughts.

However, Mother didn't go too far. She trudged "across the yard" to Grandma Rice's basement to use her wringer washer. (It probably seemed a lot longer walk to her, since she was the one carrying the huge bundle.) She would transport the bundle down the stairs and start sorting the laundry into piles: white, lights, mediums, darks, then levis/coveralls.

Meanwhile, she filled up the washer with some Borax soap and water, then filled the two big metal sinks with clear water. The washer water was probably warm and the two rinse sinks cold. She would start with the all-white clothing, like blouses etc. She'd let them agitate a bit, then reach into the washer with a wooden stick and snare a piece of clothing, sort of like fishing without the fun.

There was a trick to shoving the clothes through the wringer part on top of the washer without causing it to come offline and mash a button, or your finger. In lieu of bleach, there was a liquid called "bluing" that you can still buy today, but nobody probably does, because a cup of it would "do" for probably thirty years minimum. It somehow either bleached a bit or just put a slight blue touch on the whites that made them look beyond normal white. I know Grandma used to use it in her hair as well, for that very white color.

After she ran a batch of clothes through the wringer, she put the clothes in the rinse tub, rinsed them around by hand and then ran them back through the washer to get out any soap left over. The whole thing is a bit confusing because we did not put ourselves out much by helping her do all this. (Pauline & Lorraine may recollect differently.) Then she started on the "lights" and finished on the "darks".

Sometime, after a batch or two was done, she dumped it all in the lined apple basket to carry over to hang out on the lines strung across the back of the yard for just that reason. Those wooden clothes pins were really used as clothes pins back then, so the laundry wouldn't blow away or fall off the line into the dirt. Sometimes we would hang out a load or two for her. In the winter, she did all the hanging out on the line. No need for us all to get our fingers all arthritic when she was so skilled at it.

Then she had to drain the washer, rinse down the sinks and make sure no water had escaped too far on the floor towards the water heater. All of this had to be done, of course, as fast as possible so as to be sure she had time to go prepare us a huge dinner.

In the winter the clothes would freeze-dry on the line before they were brought into the house to be put on racks or around the house to further dry. By the end of the day, the clothes were all cleaned and as dry as possible for tomorrow, TUESDAY...