One of the most prolific things that we adults of a certain age can relate to by searching our memories is the memorable term entitled “Washdays.” Being in that age bracket myself now it is quite easy to go down memory lane and pull up some pretty amazing stories of the days when we actually did our washing of clothes on a certain day of the week, Monday morning. It was a lengthy process, whether you had a houseful of active children, or were just starting married life. You didn’t just push a couple of buttons, you planned your whole day around it. At our house we started nagging at all of the family members pretty early, to throw the dirty clothes down the basement steps where my mother would sort huge piles of all sorts of clothes. Woe be unto you if you didn’t get your duds down there, it was a long time to the next Monday. Then mother filled the washer with a rubber hose, while the steam rose in the air all around us.
First came the whites, then the coloreds, then the darker things. We didn’t even wear jeans at the time. That came a lot later in life. It was a wringer washer so Mother had to be really careful she didn’t catch her arm when running the clothes thru it. We also had two tubs full of water, for rinsing, and she would swing the arm of the wringer around in a circle to complete the process. In the wintertime the clothes got hung on clotheslines strung all thru our basement. The lines were about two feet apart. One of my most vivid memories is rollerskating all around the basement in between the rows, wet shirts hitting me in the face as I raced from one row to another. I loved to skate and looked forward to it whenever I could. The skates were metal clip-ons, and we used a key to tighten them.
My mother also did washing for a local batchelor every two weeks to earn some extra money when I was quite young . She had four children to raise, very limited income altho my father always worked every day. Active in her church, always busy, involved in the local PTA, I look back now and marvel at what a wonderful life she made for all of us. When I was 16 she and I did the Mother and Daughter tributes at our church. I can never remember a time when she wasn’t busy in all of the important things in our lives.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old I developed scarlet fever and was out of school for many weeks. At that time it was believed that anything that came in contact with the fever should be discarded. I was an avid reader, owned many books, and she was told they had to go because they were contaminated. The doctor told her that if she put the opened books in the sun and turned the pages every few hours that they could be saved. So for weeks my mother turned pages, no matter what else she had to do. I remember being so grateful but I don’t ever remember telling her how much I appreciated it at the time. In my world this was what mothers do for their families, go the extra mile, and she always did it for me.
This essay started out to talk about Washdays but it changed into something much more precious, the memories that I have of a mother who would do anything for me, and who did. My siblings can all tell the same feelings altho their stories are somewhat different.
So happy washday to you, and all of your mothers, the unsung heroes of our lives. We are so fortunate to have had them to guide us.