Dicy McCullough: Wash day was group activity
We are lucky to live with so many advances and modern devices in our world today. Multi-media is unbelievable, with technology changing daily. In the early days of technology, we were told our lives would become easier. While that may be true, in one sense of the word, it also seems peopleís lives have become more complicated and isolated as a result of these advances.
An example of this can be seen in something as simple as doing the laundry. This past fall, my mother fell and came to live at my house for a few months. One day when I was doing her laundry, she shared her experience as a child washing clothes for her mom. I for one, am grateful I didnít have to go down to the creek like she had to do. Mom was from a large family and each member had certain chores. One of her chores was to take care of the wash.
Mom sat back in her easy chair and began the story. ěIf it was warm enough, at least two of us kids would go down to the creek with a tub, fill it with water and then start a fire under it to get the water hot. Weíd mix up homemade detergent with lye soap and begin stirring it around in the tub.î (As Mom is sharing this bit of information, I canít help but be amazed that children were allowed to start a fire in the woods. Itís a wonder they didnít burn down everything in sight.)
Mom continues, ěWe scrubbed the clothes with the wash board, and sometimes even rubbed our knuckles raw. We went early in the morning, around 9, and washed clothes until about 12 noon. To be truthful, we werenít washing all that time, some of that time was spent playing in the creek because we didnít want to come back to the house too early. If we came back too soon, then weíd have some other job to do. It was easier to pretend we were still washing. In those days, since we didnít have clothes pins, weíd hang the clothes on the barb-wire fence to dry. The barb-wire kept the clothes from blowing away.î
One of the things that struck me funny, as I listened to Mom tell her story, was the fact she would pretend to be washing so she didnít have to come back to the house too early. When I was a child, I didnít get by with anything, and here my mom is playing tricks to get out of work. One of my chores, as a little girl, was also to help wash the clothes. Up until I was about 12 or 13, Mom had one of the old wringer-type machines. She would roll it into the kitchen and fill it with water from the faucet at the kitchen sink. The clothes would agitate for a while, and then weíd run them through the wringer to get the water out.
Since we didnít have a clothes dryer, weíd have to take the clothes out to the clothes line, in the backyard, and hang them up to dry. This was true in warm weather and cold. Mom was very particular about hanging her clothes out a certain way, and I knew to do it right, or it would be done again. At least I didnít have to hang them on a barb-wire fence.
Washing clothes and hanging them out to dry were not my favorite chores, but I loved the smell of the clothes when they were taken off the line, and I especially loved the smell of the sheets the first night I slept on them. Even so, what I remember most was the time spent together with my mom. Are things really better today, or were things better when families had to work together to get the job done?
Maybe the work was harder, and took longer, but at least you had someone to share the workload with.
No amount of new technology or gadgets can improve on relationships and family dynamics like time spent together, and no matter how great technology may be, it will never replace the human touch. I think about that as I hold my new grandson close and watch as his mother goes to fix his bottle in her beautiful modern kitchen. Even if itís true our lives are easier because of technology, and we need it, at the end of the day, we need each other more.
Dicy McCullough is the author of a childrenís book, ěTired of my Bath,î available at the Literary Book Post and amazon.com.