Rural Electrification Administration: Woman tu...

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Before they invented big-screen televisions and botulism was something you never wanted to find in your food, never mind inject into your wrinkles, Mondays were washdays.

In the damp concrete-floored, low-ceilinged cave that was our basement, my mother had an Easy brand wringer washing machine with an agitator the size of an outboard boat motor. The machine’s electrical cord was the size of my ten-year-old wrist and when you plugged it in, the whole contraption made the most wonderfully frightening grinding roar as it mashed up the dirty clothes into a sudsy pudding. As the eldest, I got to feed the corners of the bed sheets into the finger-mangling rollers of the wringer, every shove forward an audacious flirt with danger. Would it be painful if my hand got dragged in? I can vouch for the relentless undertow of the spinning rubber cylinders, but they actually didn’t hurt that much.

Once the soiled water had been squished from the load, they were dropped into a huge tub filled either with a dilute blend of Reckitt’s fabric blue or bunch of herbs like lavender (remember, this was way before bottled fabric softener). It was time to empty the tub and refill it with clean water. Since we had no indoor plumbing, that meant a couple of trips to the pump in the corner to fill up the galvanized tin pail. We were eco-friendly before it because the in-thing to do – we always washed in cold water! I’m not sure of the formulation of the Sunlight soap bars we used to scrub stains, but they were strong enough to strip off the epidermis if you left your hands un-rinsed for long.

As I sit under the pergola on the deck, out of the afternoon sun, the air is filled not with birdsong, but with layers of annoying buzz from multiple lawn tractors and gas trimmers. Tomorrow morning around 7 a.m., the landscape crew that keeps the vacant lot across the street trimmed will be out doing manuevers with a squadron of those zero-turn machines that jolt me out of a sound sleep. At least the folks driving them wear ear protection. Maybe that’s the only way I can get another hour of sleep.