Saturday, May 14, 2011

“Laundry Slave”

            Chores don’t bother me. I can resist the urge to vacuum whenever I see a tuft of cat hair by looking the other way.  Our dog, Koi is shedding right now, leaving little balls here-and-there, but I don’t need to haul out the vacuum cleaner because I simply scoop them up as I move room to room. Dusting? I blow it off! Literally. I have a glass topped console in my visual range. In the bedroom, as I type on my laptop, it lurks in my peripheral vision. Some mornings, when the sun shines through the window behind me, the dust on the console becomes alive, catching my attention in the light as it drifts on whispers. My willpower allows me to ignore the coating until my “Dusting Day.” And if, for some mysterious and unknown reason, the layer forms faster one week, I’ll blow it off as I walk by.  My solution dealing with dirty dishes is simple—eat out. And the dreaded grocery shopping (which becomes torture lately with increasing prices)? My solution is to eat out more!

            But laundry—laundry enslaves me. If I avoid the overflowing basket, piles of clothing form in other places in the house, breeding daily into hideous mountains. My weeks revolve around conquering these Everests. Monday’s I round-up stray piles and herd them to the laundry room, maneuvering them into piles by color or temperature needs. I haul out the hamper, adding to the mounds until each item’s categorized. Dumping in detergent and a pile of clothing into the machine doesn’t demand much effort or skill. Shifting load after load from washer to dryer requires little, too. I don’t mind folding the towels into their neat piles, hanging shirts or dresses, or even battling with the fitted sheets. For some reason, though, I dislike putting away clothes. I hate fighting for space in the closets because once everything’s clean, there’s less room. I battle to find a spot for socks and often scrunch shorts into an overflowing drawer. And then, within two days, I must repeat the entire process again. Laundry never totally disappears.  I know, however, that my laundry challenge of today doesn’t compare to the work I did as a child.

When I was a little girl, my aunt had a wringer washer down in her basement. I remember standing on a stool to submerge the clothes into the water, dragging the heavy wet cloth out and over the scrub board. My small hands ached when I finished scrubbing, plunging, scrubbing, plunging. To this day, I remember the fear that knotted my stomach as I’d timidly feed the clothing into the ringer. I had nightmares that my fingers would slip in with the fabric, the rollers grabbing me and pressing my flattened body out into the tub.

We’d toss the wet clothing into wicker laundry baskets and half-drag them up the stairs to the clothesline in the back yard. In the winter, the wind and cold would freeze my fingers as I’d clip up towels, sheets or even undies. On freezing days, the cloth would stiffen on the line before I’d finish my basket. In the summer, the scent of sunshine would permeate the fabrics. I loved pulling the warm clothes down. As an adult, I’ve occasionally taken a load hot from the dryer, thrown it on the bed, and wrapped myself within the soft, warm blankets; but it’s not the same as bedding baked by a Texas summer sun.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman


  1. I do remember how wringer washer,put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes,Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts?

  2. I have been lurking a bit on your blog, and this is my favorite piece so far. The description of doing laundry at your aunt's, and your childhood fear of the ringer are truly evocative. Best of all, "bedding baked by a Texas summer sun" is a phrase that conveys everything to the reader: texture, smell, warmth, sensation. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ane, I'm glad you liked my piece. I never got caught in the wringer, but my older cousin used to tease that it could gobble me up.

  4. Miranda, Thank you so much for lurking!!! I love that you enjoy my descriptions. Some days, just the right word of phrase comes to me, and it was that way when I wrote that last line. I hoped my readers would understand exactly.