I remember how my grandmother used to do the laundry; it was an all-day affair. There were three cycles: whites, darks and work clothes. And this was way before automatic washers and dryers; the wash went into the industrial-sized sink beside the refrigerator. What she couldn’t stir with a stick, she used her hands all the way up to her elbows.
Once everything was rinsed and hand-wrung, it was time to use the real wringer. It was cranked by hand, and the other hand fed each bit of clothing through it.
One by one, each wrung-out piece of clothing was then hung up to dry in the sun.
When everything was dry (and smelled gloriously of the sunshine and wind), everything was put away in its proper place. The whole process took a full day.
However, doing laundry did not always happen on a bright sunny day. I remember my grandmother trying to hurry the washing along before a snow fall. Of course, the snow won, and my grandmother grimly hung out all those wet clothes out to dry as much as possible. Once everything dried out (or just plain froze), bringing them into the house was another proposition as they had all frozen in place. The clothes all looked like they were frozen in place while trying to run away from the clothes line.
These days we have washing machines and dryers and also dry cleaners. Wash day is done in an hour or so; a wonder! All we need to do is throw all the dirty clothes into the washer, add soap and press a button. Once the wash cycle is done, we toss the wet clothes into the dryer. When that’s done, we simply fold everything up. I’ll admit that I do love to do the laundry; it gives me one of those “God’s in His heaven; all’s right with the world” feelings.
And while I fold up those deliciously warm and soft clothing and towels, I think of my grandmother, grimly hauling all those frozen clothes, sheets and towels into the house. It was more than an all-day workout; it was a labor of love.