My friends seem to know that at any given moment I can be found doing something weird. A few summers ago I decided to forgo air conditioning, finally relenting in mid August, when I ran our central air for two weeks. I did it as an experiment to see just how much the cost savings would be, and to recapture some of the summer nostalgia from my childhood. Then there was the winter of the gray hair. It was a belligerent attempt to embrace my natural color, which I hadn’t seen in years. That ended with me having a panic attack at the sight of myself on a photograph, and a frantic run to the beauty supply store. This summer, I have regressed back to the days of the washboard and clothesline. Growing up, even though almost everyone had a washing machine, there were lines of laundry drying in almost every back yard. Now? Not so much.
While in the middle of a renovation of our home, we are left without major appliances, save for a refrigerator. Sure, I could go to the local Laundromat, but I have an aversion to throwing my laundry into public machines. The last time I went that route I watched a woman stuffing a washer with cloth diapers while telling her friend about her family’s recent bout with Norwalk virus, that common and very contagious illness that causes 48 hours of the worst gastrointestinal explosions imaginable. So, with that imagine seared into my memory, I decided to tackle outdoor laundry day in my yard. I’m not about to heat kettles and boil our clothing, but I did discover that, while very labor intensive, scrubbing things item by item on a washboard sure does relieve tension.
Call me crazy, but nothing makes you appreciate what you have so much as not having it. Sitting in the shade, scrubbing laundry for hours, gives you time to think. Technology has invaded us to the point of taking away some of the simple pleasures of life. My mind wondered back to when my cousin and I would think it was just the best fun ever when our grandma would get out her big galvanized washtub, fill it with cold well water, and let us sit in it. I remembered the snap of freshly laundered sheets blowing in the breeze, and the smell of them on a just made bed. I also thought back to how my grandma would be upset to see birds eating the raspberries from the fields, knowing that one flight over a fresh load of laundry she had just hung on the line would mean sure disaster.
I’m not about to claim that I will not be thrilled the day my new washer and dryer arrive. But I can also say that there are worse things than sitting outdoors on a beautiful day, hands immersed in soapy water, the sound of fabric sloshing against a washboard. There is something soothing about not being plugged in, not being connected to the Internet or the TV. Without the distractions of technology, it is easy to daydream. Most surprising of all, I have found that I have been sleeping more deeply than I have in years, waking up early without an alarm, and feeling more rested than I can remember.