When I was young and we lived on the fruit farm in Booneyville, Ontario, the old wringer washing machine lurked in the scary basement next to the hand pump (we had no running water or inside plumbing). My mother usually did the laundry on Monday mornings. I remember asking her, why, and her answer was that it was tradition. There are probably deeper sociological reasons, but as a kid, I took some comfort in the regularity of her schedule.
Mom had to hang the clothes outside, on a wire line attached to a pulley device close to the porch and stretching to the distant telephone pole at the edge of the back yard. I loved the sharp flapping of sheets and undies, the flags of bleached cotton diapers waving in the summer breeze, the trousers and dresses filling with air, bobbing as if worn by the invisible. Winters weren’t fun, though. Even though we tried to help, Mom struggled with the sodden wicker baskets. Our steaming garments stiffened as she shivered in her heavy boots and woolen coat, prying open the brittle wooden pins with ungloved fingers and reeling the line out of sight over the snow drifts. By the end of the day, the laundry was board-hard, smelling of cold and sun, half-dry and unfoldable.
As I grew up, moved on, had kids, house, job, etc., I relied on a series of square white metal boxes that churned then squeezed the water out of clothes with varying degrees of success. Does it make a noise and do its thing when I press the ‘on’ button? Great! I’ve never felt the ecstasy of those deprived women who swoon over detergent in television commercials, nor have I ever wanted to embrace a scruffy talking bear or that bald guy clad in white, for enhancing the fragrance of my skivvies. I just wanted the damned stuff clean.
Sometimes, in the sear of summer, I’ll hang out whites and shirts on the folding contraption attached to the wall by the back door – Mom said that sunlight brightens clothes as well as spirits – and she was right.
But now, in the depths of winter, I’ve returned to tradition. Today was laundry day. I lingered by the open door of my candy-apple clothes dryer, happily inhaling the scent of fabric softener, folding toasty briefs and towels and turtlenecks and jeans until the basket filled to overflowing. If I may borrow from Neil Pasricha, an author I admire – Awesome!