The Good Old Days?

Recently I experienced a rare bout of insomnia during which I got up and did a load of wash. The episode evoked memories of my mother tackling the chore years before. In those days, no one washed just one load at whim. In our house, Monday was washday. This was done so that ironing could be done on Tuesday. (This was a sacred ritual my mother had learned from her mother, my bubbie, who undoubtedly believed this to be part of the Jewish tradition.)

I remember my mother informing me one Monday morning that it was time for me to learn how to wash clothes. And so I accompanied her to our dark, often cool and somewhat damp basement. This was not my favorite room! Though without proof, I was convinced that there were furry little animals living down there and perhaps some eerie beings straight out of the program ‘Inner Sanctum’ which I listened to on the radio every Sunday night.

"First," she explained as she demonstrated, "always use scalding water and the first load must be sheets." Although the machine was electric, it had a manual wringer which hung over a sink full of fresh rinse water. The next batch was more white clothes, followed by colored ones and finally, darks. All were usually washed in sudsy (Fels Naptha?) water with rinse water frequently changed. In between loads, weather permitting, each batch of clothes was hung outside to dry to boardlike but fragrant conditions. By four in the afternoon, the wash was done and clothes folded and put away.

This reminiscence made me wonder what my mother did when SHE had insomnia. And then it dawned on me! Anyone who worked that hard, probably never had the problem.

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