Tuesday, July 20, 2010


When I was a kid, a long, LONG, time ago, I liked to watch my mom do the laundry.  Laundry was different in those days, and especially because there were nine of us some of the time, and eight most of the time.

We didn't have huge wardrobes then.  It seems like we each had two school dresses and a couple of changes of play clothes, and our Sunday Go to Meetings.  That makes it sound like easy duty, until you realize that all those, for everyone, had to be ironed.  Mom also ironed the pillow cases and hankies.  That's what I learned to iron first.

The wash was done Monday, weather permitting. We hung it out even if it was cloudy, because there were enough of us to run out and grab it back in if the raindrops started to fall.  Shirts and dresses were starched before they were hung out.  

In the winter the clothes would freeze.  We'd bring it all in, stiff as a board.  Some we would hang on the rack and wherever to finish drying, and some would thaw enough to be rolled up in the ironing bag for the following day.  In the summer they had to be sprinkled and rolled.

Tuesday was ironing day, and it did take all day.  Mom used the high stool, a little metal chair that did double duty as a high chair for whichever baby was on hand at the time.  It had no tray or belts.  The baby was tied in with a dish towel.  Mom would prop one cheek on the seat, one foot on the floor, and the other foot on the stretcher between the chair legs and iron for eight hours or so.  The finished ironing was on hangers on the wooden clothes horse until it was all done, then everyone put their own away.

I loved the smell of Monday and of Tuesday. Fels Naptha had a wonderful petroleum smell.  No bleach or detergent touched Mom's laundry, and we had the cleanest clothes in the neighborhood.  The warm smell of the ironing was homey and comforting.

The first time I did my own laundry was over 40 years ago.  I was 18, and I did the ironing.  Mom taught us to iron, so I did a good job.  I didn't have a wooden clothes horse to hang my ironed clothing on, so I hung it on on the kitchen door.  The shirts hung for days, because I adored seeing them there.

I still hang my clothes to dry whenever I can.  I usually leave them on the line overnight, and bring them in the following afternoon after work.  Now I can bring them in the next morning before the sun even hits that area.  

My friend made me the clothesline poles and my brothers-in-law put them up for me.  I wouldn't give them up for the world.  I only iron shirts and summer shorts now, but Hubby goes to work looking like someone cares.

Nobody looks like a bum in this family -- except me.

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