Laundry stories -- 06/15/02

Well, the Friday Five is back up, although I had already posted a Friday entry before I found out that it was back. Stephanie (Yer Blues) and Stefani (And Another Thing) and Doug and Paulineee have all done this week's Friday Five questions for their Friday entries... I wonder if I can slip it in for a Saturday.

1. How often do you do laundry? As often as needed -- multiple times per week. Nancy and I both do the laundry, whoever happens to have the time to toss in a load, although weekends are more likely to see multiple loads being done while week nights might see just a single load. Our daughter does her own laundry, which is good, except she has a habit of doing super oversized loads, which isn't quite so good.
2. What's in a typical wash load? The household consists of the pair of us parental types plus teenaged male plus college student daughter. (Although she does her own laundry, I might sometimes harvest towels from her laundry hamper to fill out a load or Nancy might go on a bed linen washing spree and strip Jennifer's bedding.)
3. Front or top loader? Powder or liquid detergent? Top load washer. Tide powder.
4. Do you use fabric softener in the rinse cycle? Dryer sheets (actually, Nancy uses them, I might sometimes)
5. Dryer or clothesline? Have about sixty or seventy feet of clothes line in backyard, plus Nancy has been known to lay out socks and underwear on my hammock. She especially loves to dry towels and bedding outside to get that fresh air smell. I think that makes for scratchy towels, but I go along with it to keep her happy.

One of the many pleasures of moving to a house from an apartment (May of 1980) was having a washer and dryer in the basement -- although it was only a few weeks later that, per Nancy's request, Adam and I put up clothes lines behind our garage. (That was also when I realized just how fast he was growing -- he was entering junior high -- when he easily picked up a sack of cement to carry into the backyard.) That house had a gas furnace and gas hot water heater and a gas-heated dryer -- but had an electric stove. I hate electric stoves and was happy when that stove became decrepit enough that I could justify buying a new stove to replace it and happily had a gas line run to the kitchen and bought a gas stove. Strangely enough, our house here in Rhode Island also has a gas furnace and gas hot water heat, and has a gas stove in the kitchen -- but the laundry room, which is next to the kitchen, does not have a gas line running to it -- and since it, like the adjoining garage, is on a slab instead of over the basement, it would be costly to run a gas line there, so we had to get rid of our gas dryer when we moved in and bought an electric clothes dryer.

Back when Nancy and I were first dating -- she was finishing her last semester of college -- she was pulling an intense all-nighter, studying for a final exam, and I offered to do her laundry. Off I went to a coin-op laundry, wash, dry, bring back clean clothes. I had this idea that I had just made a good impression on her, that I was a nice guy, etc. Well, I guess that she did think of me as a nice guy, but I found out years later that the big impression that I had made was that I was totally inept when it came to doing laundry because I had not folded things properly and neatly. Different perceptions.

When I was a kid my mother would always hang laundry on clotheslines in the backyard, except in bad weather, when they would be hung on lines in the basement instead. Hanging things in the backyard was fine in the summer, but in winter during those days of coal-fired furnaces, there was always a problem with soot. I can remember when she would do laundry with an old ringer type washing machine, where the wet clothes were fed from the wash tub into the rinse tub through a set of rollers that would squeeze out the soapy water. (It used to fascinate me and terrify me; I could imagine getting my fingers caught in the ringers and being pulled through until my whole arm was flattened out like a piece of laundry.)

In the winter I would sometimes ride my tricycle in the basement, along a wood-floored basement hallway, into the cement-floored backroom that held my father's workbench as well as the washing machine, around through that room and into the large wood-floored front room with its three large windows (given the slope of our lot, the front half of our basement was actually at ground level, actually about ten feet to twelve feet above street level), and then back into the hall again. I didn't like winter laundry days when clothing couldn't be hung out on the line; that meant that clothing was hung to dry in the basement and I couldn't ride my tricycle around a basement filled with drying laundry, especially not down that hallway filled with hanging sheets. Ironing days were good ones; then I could ride my trike around while my mother ironed in the front room. It was a warm room (it housed our coal-burning furnace), pleasantly bright in early mornings with sunlight streaming in the side window, and the steam iron added a moist warmth to the air. I would park my tricycle and my mother and I would have long conversations as she ironed. Conversations between an adult and a child, especially a pre-school child, may not seem to be real conversations, but in my family they were; our parents were always ready to carry on discussions with my brother and me as if we were equal partners in the conversation -- uh, this did not apply, of course, to things like the setting of bedtime, the need to perform chores, and things of that nature, but it certainly did to things like discussion of current news events, the content of radio or television programs, everyday experiences, etc.

When we first moved into this house I put clothes lines up in the basement which were used during that first winter, but since then that area of the basement has found other uses -- for a long while it was Jennifer's official band room, where she and her friends would practice as they formed and reformed rock groups (Jennifer sometimes did electic guitar, sometimes drums) -- and now it is our "fitness center" or, at least, the area where we have the treadmill, weight bench, punching bag, etc., although we've not ever set it up the way Nancy and I envision it being. Ah, well, one of these days...

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