Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I have been in a funk this week, bogged down in the wash/rinse/repeat of life. Every post I started for today came out sounding whiny. So my sister/editor who has had my back for the past 65 years, again stepped up and offered to provide a guest post. I don’t have any memory of the wringer washer, but I do remember the excitement of the arrival of an automatic washer and dryer at our little house on Fail Road many, many years ago. Happy Sunday and enjoy the post!

…a memory                                                                                                

…it’s 11ish, morning…I’m scanning the Times newspaper when the buzzer goes off signaling the chore of pulling wet clean garments from the washer and plopping them into the yawning dryer.    I sigh… like it’s a call back to the mines.  Suddenly I am awash with old memories…of my mother and me rolling that heavy awkward old round wringer washer machine from our covered back porch into the kitchen to start the weekly laundry drudgery.  She would pull out the two hoses stored inside and manipulate the washer around the floor to hook up the hoses to the kitchen faucet.  As the tub slowly filled with hot water Mom would grab her faithful big orange box of industrial strength Tide detergent.  She swore it was the best and got even the grimy boys pants clean.  ( She even made us kids bathe in it.) (I don’t recommend it.)

The load of whites always went in first, the agitator working away, back and forth, sometimes adding a splash of bleach to encourage brightness. After a bit of time (only Mom knew how much) it was time to put the clothes through the scary wringer.  All seven of us kids were warned with stories of fingers and hands being crushed in a wringer. We knew to pass on the admonitions to our younger siblings.  

Carefully each garment was eased into the rollers and then down into a second nearby galvanized tub filled with clean water to rinse out the soap.  We would splash them around, up and down, then back through the wringer and into a basket to be lugged to the back yard and hung on clotheslines…spring summer fall and the dead of freezing winter, hung with wooden clothes pins until they dried, not always an easy feat in wintertime. In polar temperatures diapers would freeze into perfect rectangles and needed to be brought inside to thaw before they could be folded.

After the whites came the pastels, same arduous routine and finally the darks of dad and brothers’ shirts and pants which were also the dirtiest.  If the water became too murky, we would empty the washer thru a hose into a bucket and haul that heavy load to the sink to empty and refill. I hated emptying the washer and hauling the dirty water out, in the summer  to the yard…must not waste water and the soap kept insects at bay, so mom said.  Occasionally we would run out of hot water and mom would fill large pots and heat water on the stove.

And this was my memory at 11 am in 2021, as my dryer buzzer called me.   I sat with those Indiana days for some moments realizing how my mother never complained but just got on with the task at hand. She was raised a farm girl. That’s what you do. As I headed down the stairs to transfer the laundry my thankful heart went out to the inventors and moms who today make my laundry day so simple and me feel a bit guilty.   May they all rest in peace.

…the duchess


Guest post – a rebuttal of sorts – from my sister…


Mea culpa, I do call my beloved Stormy OCD, but I mean it in the nicest way. My little sister is one smart cookie. If we had had a different mother, I’m fairly confident, she would have landed a challenging career in New York City. But growing up, what could have happened and what does happen are often quite different. 

So Stormy took lemons and made lemonade. She hunted down the man of her dreams and married him. Now to the OCD. At one time (and possibly still) Mrs. Smith had a schedule for each day, clean, vacuum, dust each room, scrub bathrooms, change sheets, clean bedrooms, scrub floors. I was fascinated and once set out to follow her example. But as I was working sometimes 12 to 14 hours a day all hopes of following an organized schedule fell apart. With my four kids and several dogs in a single mom household it just was not workable.

Even today my youngest sister remains my role model for a well-run home. A place for everything and everything in its place. Her home is always beautiful, artful and tidy, and yes, extremely clean. As an old tired curmudgeon my rooms are not so much. Projects pile up in the sewing room and office with writing, editing, sewing, and League of Women Voters projects. I no longer have a house full of kids or dogs to track in dirt or pile dirty dishes in the sink.  I’m too short to see the top of the refrigerator but still have no excuse for my less-than-perfect housekeeping. The truth is I am not bothered by a few days dust or the bedroom chair piled with yesterday’s sweats.   Yet I am envious of the energy and organizational skills my baby sister brings to her home. She’s a fantastic mother, wife, grandmom and  party planner.   But it seems as I push my 8th decade my energy reserve has left on a Caribbean cruise.   And now that I know that she is irritated by me saying she has OCD, I should stop, but probably will not.  Why be good when you can be naughty. 


The days of wine and covid…

Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy this guest post from my sister, Jeanne.


Another day when if I have to know the day or time, I look at my phone. Forget dates, no idea if it’s the 7th, the 15th, or whether we are into the 20s by now. Some days I forget the month.

Each day slides quietly into the next. Where my old life was divided into appointments, meetings and occasional daylong shopping excursions, this quarantined life is dictated by my lists. It consists of itemized reminders of the tasks and projects I hope to accomplish each day. Some entries require immediate attention: no milk, go to the store, put the trash out, stick a chicken in the oven for dinner.  Some may take a few days – garden planting, sewing projects, painting the garage door. Some are simply aspirational like learn Italian or lose 10 pounds, read Moby Dick. The aspirational may never happen but on the rare chance we experience a pandemic, they could be worth tackling.

Well as it just so happens, quarantine 2020 is the answer to all those delayed projects and tasks you have pushed aside as too time-consuming or requiring too much focus. But I must finally admit that many of those lofty enterprises that I had placed on my long-term goal list really are just simply things I admire in other people but am too lazy to actually accomplish myself. I would love to be multilingual, to fit into much slimmer styles, as well as read all the great novels of the last 100 years. But none of that is likely to happen. Sadly COVID 19 has made me more pragmatic, henceforth, the list must change. Only goals that can be accomplished within one to three days will be included on my daily list. No more frustration with uncrossed out entries. To remedy the still daydreamer in me, I have also started a second list in a small purple notebook. It contains only aspirational entries, things the young self who resides inside my old tired body still secretly yearns to accomplish. It’s tucked away so not to embarrass my youthful survivors, yet close enough to remind my heart of chances.

I write lists because my memory and my memories grow less reliable. I want to remember, so my lists are as helpful as a kind assistant.  Some desk drawers are filled with old lists, most tasks accomplished, I hope. I leave them to remind me of things I have done. Silly, but when you are old you can do silly things.  My tabletops are often stacked with paperwork for chapters of books I am writing, memos, reports, letters and cards to finish as well as the ubiquitous lists that are so much a part of my life.  The luxury of living alone is no one complains, “not even the chair”.

Thank you Neil Diamond.