Why is it that you always seem to discover that the dryer isn’t working when there are wet towels in it and a load of sheets already started in the washing machine?
We have an old washer and dryer that came with the house. They are so old that they have model numbers that I can actually read without a magnifying glass. They are shorter than a phone number without an area code. I’m hoping it is just the ignition switch and all will be well when Doc Rick’s Appliances comes over to check it out. Rick is our brother-in-law and he is so good to us.
I loaded up the wet towels and the wet sheets and the rest of the laundry hanging around, including the slacks I needed, and headed to the laundromat. Off I went, quarters in my change purse, detergent and softener on the pile in the laundry basket, and memories of childhood agitating in my head.
I don’t mind going to the laundromat every-so-often. It’s not my favorite thing to do for sure, but, then neither is washing clothes at home. There is an industrial sized rhythm to the rows of washing machines, all chugging away at the same time like a line of chorus girls and the big, industrial dryers humming away and the smell of detergent and bleach and fabric softener filling the flourescent lit room.
It all reminded me of my mom and dad.
When we moved from the city of Chicago to the suburbs in the 1950′s, my dad proudly bought my mom a brand new washing machine. The old wringer washer was left in the house in the city and a spanking new top loading washing machine was waiting in our basement when we arrived. There was a big box of Oxydol waiting inside.
My mother used the washer only five or six times in the 12 years we lived in the house. It made a lot of noise and it wandered across the basement floor like a big, boxy monster out to destroy our clothes. Ma was terrified of it. I remember her screaming in panic ”Pete! Pete! It’s moving!”. I snuck down and used it a few times when I was a teenager and she wasn’t around. It was a piece of cake, but, Ma was afraid of the washing machine and just refused to use it. She also couldn’t drive a car. My dad would help her load up the clothes in baskets and bags (Marshall Field’s shopping bags – I’m not kidding here) and we would pile into the station wagon and head to the laundromat. The whole time he would be muttering “I bought you the easiest model there is, Vi. An ABC washing machine and you’re afraid of it?”.
Daddy would help us in and Ma would start loading the machines and filling them with Oxydol and I would slip coins into the slots. Dad would run errands, muttering as he went out the door about the ease of an ABC washing machine – the simplest machine every made. Our job, my sister and mine, was to see how fast we could wrangle a dime from our mother for an ice cold bottle of Nehi orange or grape soda. Dottie was very good at getting this accomplished. She’s still a good wrangler. I loved the soda and she was the key to getting it. I would open the bottle on the side of the cooler and sit in a chair, swinging my legs and watching the clothes go round and round in the dryers as I savored the sweet orange soda, its bubbles tingling my nose.
My dad would return and mutter some more about the easiest machine in the world, an ABC washer, but Ma could be stubborn and she just didn’t trust it. ABC or XYZ, she wasn’t using that machine, even if she had to wash clothes by hand – which she often did. Dad would go next door to my Aunt Christina’s and grumble some about the ABC washing machine just sitting in the basement. When we moved, he gave it to my aunt. He said it was brand new, which is was, though it no longer held the box of Oxydol. Aunt Christina made sure it was balanced and used it for many years, repeating the story of Vi and the ABC’s and how she was more than happy to have it.
I watched our clothes drying and read The Help, our book group choice for that night. Thirsty, I walked over to the Seven Eleven, looking for Nehi orange soda and settling for a Diet Coke, and as I sat and sipped it, my legs dangling still after all these years and the dryers spinning round and round, I started to chuckle, remembering my mom and dad and the conundrum of the wandering washing machine of my youth – and I sang my ABC’s.
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