In theory, doing laundry doesn’t sound that bad. You heat up lots of water, add soap, soak the clothes, scrub them, wring out the dirty water, soak them again, scrub them again, wring out the dirty water––again––soak them, rinse them, wring out the water, rinse them a third time, and then wring out the water once more time before hanging them out to dry. Sounds easy, right?
It’s not easy.
Doing laundry is a nightmare.
Here’s the main problem with laundry (if you really want to know, and trust me, you don’t)––Everything starts off about ten times dirtier than normal laundry at home. I mean, the white shirts, the bibs and petticoats––they were brown. And on top of that, washing them doesn’t really help because the water you’re washing them becomes instantly filthy. By the end of the day, you’re hoping to get things to a place where they’re maybe as dirty as the stuff you would put in the hamper at home.
By lunchtime on laundry day, every pot we had was filled with hot water. There was a washtub on the floor overflowing with suds. My mom had got out this thing called a washboard which is made of wood covered in wrinkled tin and looks like something you’d use as a musical instrument in elementary school, but is actually something you’re supposed to use to scrub out the dirt from clothes––you rub them up and down on the board, and then wring them out, soak them in the water and do it again.
There were puddles of spilled water on the floor. Our hands were red and chapped. My mom had sweat pouring down her temples––God knows I could feel it dripping down my face too. The muscles in my upper arms were burning and so weak from trying to ring out these enormously heavy shirts and petticoats that I could barely get them to move.
I think I got more skin to rub off my knuckles than dirt to rub out of the clothes.
Last Sunday, when my mom said we had to get the laundry done this week and I had asked, “Do we take it to Betsy’s?” she laughed so hard I was worried they’d have to call some men in a van to take her away. Now I understand what she meant.
I was so tired last night I fell asleep sitting up on the porch.