I could feel the edges of the curtains that hung from my bedroom window as they billowed over me, tickling my foot that stuck out from under the covers and waking me, as they usually did on those summer mornings. The early, gentle breeze flowing through that window smelled of honeysuckle and echoed the chirping of every kind of bird in my neighborhood - the mourning dove especially comes to mind. I remember lying there before getting up, trying to mimic all of their assorted calls. As I wiped the sleep out my eyes, I realized it was Monday...wash day. My older sisters dreaded this day but I was kind of excited because I had gotten old enough to help and I thought it was fun...way back then. We didn't have the convenient washers and dryers that we have today but instead, an old tub-type washer with a wringer that you had to feed the clothes through. It sat right out in the kitchen because we didn't have a separate laundry room. I wasn't allowed to mess with it...way too dangerous for the littlest girl...that part of the job was left to my older sisters and of course, Mom, who all reminded me from time to time of a little child they had heard of who's arm was crippled after it had gotten "run through the wringer". The only time I was allowed to get near the washer was when one of my siblings decided to use me as an "object" to hide during one of the many times we played that game...sometimes it was me, sometimes it was a clothespin or any other random object that we all agreed on. I thought it was great fun being hidden in the tub of the washer with all the dirty laundry! It's unfortunate that most kids these days don't use their imaginations like we did back then.
In those early days when I was very young, we didn't know what an automatic dryer was. We hung our laundry on a clothesline out in the side yard. On rainy days, we had a line stretched across our bedroom upstairs. Later on, after Dad had the back patio covered, we even had a line running across the width of it. I can remember the little fold-up laundry cart with wheels like it was yesterday. The older girls would carry it down the steps out of the kitchen...full of wet clothes, sheets, or whatever was being washed that day and then rolled it out and over the driveway, into the side yard where the clothesline was planted. It had a little pocket on the side to hold the clothespins. When I was really little, my job was to hand my sisters the clothespins as they held the laundry up to line. When I finally got tall enough to reach the line myself, I thought that I had really accomplished something very important! Of course, when the laundry was all nice and dry (and somewhat stiff), we would then gather it all back in and begin the folding process. My job was folding handkerchiefs, wash cloths (we actually referred to them as "worsh rags" back then), and small kitchen and hand towels. In my opinion, there is nothing that compares to the aroma of freshly washed laundry that has been hung out to dry!
I don't remember exactly how old I was when Mom received her first ever automatic washer and dryer. If my memory serves me correctly, I think she got them when Dad had won one of the door prizes at the annual Beach Manufacturing summer picnic. That was where he was employed as a tool and dye maker, among other things, and every summer they had this big picnic and the owner of the company, Ted Beach, donated many large household items and other very nice things that were given out as prizes. I'm sure Mom didn't know what to think when she was awarded this new luxury! I sort of remember still hanging the sheets outside so they would have that fresh smell but that new dryer made the bath towels way softer than when they were hung on the line.
Looking back, I don't think Mondays were ever quite the same after that. Yes, the gentle breeze that I was referring to earlier still flowed through my bedroom window on summer mornings and the sounds of the birds singing and the scent of honeysuckle still filled the air. At the time, I'm sure I thought it was great having the new wash day equipment but the things I remember most are the times when we did things a little differently than we do today....a simpler time, indeed. It's those little details of how we accomplished our daily tasks and how we lived our lives...not taking much for granted, unlike today. Now that I am 50 something, I guess I have gotten somewhat reminiscent of my early childhood years...at times yearning to go back and re-visit those days....if only for a short time. I really don't want to have a wringer-type washer again, even though I think it might be fun to have one to use as a planter or something out in the yard. I really don't want to have to hang my clothes up on the line either....even though it might be fun to do it just because I want to sometimes (but of course, I never do).
Wash days occur any day of the week for me now... sometimes EVERYDAY of the week! These days, I look forward to being able to afford a brand new set of the front loading, high tech washer/dryer combos that are so popular today. My only new laundry appliances were purchased right after Jim and I were married and they have gone to wherever old appliances go to die....after almost 36 years, I guess so! For now, I will get by with my used, unmatched set until the great appliance master in the sky calls them home as well. I thank God for these memories that will probably seem a little foolish to some and this is just one of many that I will always cherish and keep in the treasure box of my heart.
Well, until next time...gotta go finish my laundry....and yep, it's Monday!