Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Good 'Ol Days


N. sent me a picture of her backyard in Vermont. It really took me back a few years. I lived in New York state until I was 11. I was never allowed near the washing machine. It was one of those big barrel arrangements (made by Sears) that would aggitate the clothes, but to squeez out the water, you had it put the fabric through an electric set of rollers that my mother feared might eat me. So she would operate the washer, put the clothes in a big basket, and then I'd take them out and put them on the clothesline. (Yes, there was a day before clothes dryers.) In the summer the biggest problem was Japanese beetles that would land on the clothes and which I was horribly afraid of. But in the winter, hanging out the clothes took on a whole new challenge. The wind would whip around and catch the sheets and me and carry me stumbling across the back yard like a human kite. The clothespins were kept in a bag that you could scoot down the line as you went, pegging each item onto the plastic line. You could not wear gloves while putting the wash out, because then you couldn't operate the clothespins. So your hands would get white from the cold, and ever so painful, sometimes so cold you couldn't make them work, but there was no going in until it was all done.

Then hours later, you'd go back out into the wind and often the snow and collect and fold all the wash. My brother was an infant at the time, and so we were deluged with diapers. There were no Pampers or Huggies at the time. You took the Birdseye diapers, washed them dried them and then there were a hundred variations of folding depending on the size of your infant or toddler. Taking in all the diapers and sheets and undies and shirts and pants and dresses took time, and once again your hands felt frozen and were painful by the time you'd only taken down a line or two of wash. The wash itself was frozen from the water left in it. Nothing dried. Why did I have to bother hanging it out and taking it in? It just became a solid frozen sheet that was nearly impossible to fold. Everything would be brought back inside and for the first 20 minutes it stayed flat and frozen. During those 20 minutes I'd take the sheets and diapers and dresses and pants and everything else large enough, and hang them over doors so that they'd actually dry inside the house. Sometimes the sheets would take two days of turing them and re-folding them with different layers exposed to the outside. If you weren't careful to keep turning them and refolding them, they soured, and you sure didn't want to go through that whole process again, so one had to be vigilant.

I remember a clothesline that looks just like the one in the picture, and the snow piled up just as high as I put on my winter, fur-lined galoshes and heavy jacket with an Eskemo hood, and would go outside to put out and take in the laundry. You know, I really like my washer and dryer. And even though I'm now in Georgia instead of New York, I'll never forget how tiring and cold, and difficult it was to wrestle with the laundry in the winter. Some people look back and think of those days as the "Good 'Ol Days," but I'm not volunteering to go back there.

1 comment:

Allen said...

I remember the old washing machines with the rollers. My mother kept hers on the back porch. At least when we hung the clothes in winter, it was rare that there was snow on the ground.