Ironing Flutterbys

I did laundry this weekend.  Considering that the towels from the church luncheon last Sunday were still waiting in the dryer, and we have had a heat wave, the laundry really piled up in a week. 
I put all our bedding through both machines, then washed 5 loads of other stuff.  Three got hung on the line outside, and two went into the dryer.  I do like how soft the towels get with the dryer.  I hate making the bed, but it sure does smell better.

When I was doing the ironing awhile ago, I remembered how on hot summer evenings like this one when my Grandma would do the ironing on the back porch.  She had pulled the bottom corner of the screen loose and run an extension cord out for the iron.
She’d take the clothes, nice and dry and straight off the line, then sprinkle them and roll them up and put into the bushel basket that had a cloth liner fitted into it.
Then she would sit on a step stool, take those clothes back up and iron them before putting them on hangers.  Even though I was so young, I thought it was dumb to let them get dry, then re-wet them to do the ironing. 

Nowadays, I take Husband’s work shirts, and my two pair of dress shorts straight off the line and iron them.  There have been times when I just shrug and put them right into the closet, but they do look better after they have been ironed.

Ironing is one of those mindless tasks when the hands do something they’ve done thousands of times before, so the brain allows memories to come flitting in like butterflies in a meadow.  This evening, the scene that played out was more like a tidal wave of conflicting emotions, and every detail overlapped so fast that I couldn’t breathe for several seconds. 
Wonder what the differences are…….

When I was a little girl, doing laundry meant a wringer washer and galvanized steel tubs to do the rinses. 
I remember my mom, my dad, my friend Irene’s mom, my grandma, my Aunt Sylvia, each and all, at various times working the wringer in their basements. 
And being told to never touch it, it was Dangerous.

That didn’t stop me at about age 5 when I decided to help Mommy.  Mom had gone around the wall of the basement to where my younger sister was sitting on the potty.  The washer was not swishing around, Mom had stopped while in the middle of putting clothes through the wringer.  I fished around with the old wooden spoon she used for just that purpose and brought up a bit of cloth.  I pulled on the handle to start the wringer and fed the corner in.  I didn’t let go of the towel (I still remember that it was a dishtowel) and so my small child’s hand went on through clear up to my elbow. 

The wringer started groaning in protest, and I began screaming in pain.  Mom came running back into the laundry room carrying my sister whose pants were around her ankles.  I don’t know if her bottom ever got properly wiped.

Just as Mom got to the machine, the wringer did a LOUD Screech and stopped.  Mom reached up and pulled the plug from the outlet, then turned to me.  There was supposed to be some sort of safety which would work if the rollers of the wringer were forced apart too far, and that is what had made the noise and stopped the turning.

Mom pulled the wringer apart as far as it would go, yelling for Dad to get down to the basement and help with one or the other of us girls.  My sister, having been set down rather quickly, had lost her balance, what with her britches twisted around her feet, and had fallen over and bumped her head on the bench.

I’m thinking Dad had been sleeping on the couch, he worked shifts at the mill, so it is hard to say.  He came thundering down the steps, took a look at the scene, and must have decided on me with an arm caught rather than younger and half-naked daughter with a bump on her head.

He calmly told me that he was going to pull up the wringer, and I should quickly get my arm out.  I pulled away from the wringer and he set it back slowly, making sure it returned to its gears. My arm felt like it had gone to sleep, and was now tingling like it was coming awake again.
Then he took me to the steps, told me to sit on one, and proceeded to hold onto my arm and make me bend it every which way.  Came to the conclusion that it wasn’t broken, only bruised.  Then he went into the other part of the basement, took a diaper off the clothesline, folded it into a triangle and fashioned a sling for my arm.

Meanwhile, Mom had gotten my sister dressed, and had taken a washcloth off the clothesline and run the water really cold over it, and was putting it on her head.  She parked my sister next to me on the steps and told me to hold the cloth on her head with my good hand.  Then she and dad went to check the washer.  He got everything back into place, then he plugged it back in the outlet, pulled all its knobs and handles, and figured it would be fine.
Mom went on with the washer and wringer and rinse tubs as if nothing had happened.

Dad came over to the steps, took the cloth out of my hand, checked her head, tossed the cloth into the washer where mom was fishing stuff ‘out’.  She flung water at him with the wooden spoon.  He ducked, laughing.  Two little girls sitting there miserable, and he laughed at water on his glasses.

He turned to me, told me to stand up and go on upstairs.  Then he picked up my sister and carried her up.  We got some milk and Ritz crackers in the kitchen.

I wore that sling for a couple days, then Dad took it away when he caught me smacking my sister with my injured hand.  He diagnosed that I was now recovered.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was a mom myself that I understood that when my Mom flung water from the end of the spoon at the guy who had hurried to her assistance, well,  that was her way of saying “Thanks for the help, old man.” 
She never was very physically loving or sweet.  Life in our family was more like crisis intervention rather than planned situations.  Maybe a story for another day. 
~~love and Huggs, Diane

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