Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wash day at Grandma Strange's house

Did anyone else call laundry day wash day? Besides meal preparation, nothing was done on Monday except laundry. Woe is me if it rained. If it rained it became baking day instead.

You entered Grandma Strange's kitchen by coming up the driveway on the side of the house. There were steps leading up to a small porch that took you into the kitchen. I loved the slam of the back screen door. Grandma had a dog named Spot. He looked like a Pit Bull mixed with something else. He was totally white except for a huge black spot on his back. That was when people still kept dogs tied to a dog house in the back yard. Someone came out once a day to give him fresh water and food. Spot had an old nasty house made of odd pieces of lumber. When I was there I always volunteered to feed and water him. Yes, of course I took some stolen table scraps with me buried in his dog food.
Grandma would always tell me not to get to close to him because he would bite me. He was a watch dog. I could never figure out how he could be a watch dog when he was tied to a dog house. I could not see a burglar walking up to old Spot and surrendering for breaking into the house. My uncles would come home and yell at Spot for barking. Some things about my family never made sense to me.

Inside the back door were the stairs going to the top floor. When all of us cousins spent the night we used these stairs to come down at night and raid the kitchen. After we loaded up on whatever we could carry, we raced back upstairs giggling and hid under the sheets.

Grandma's kitchen always smelled of oil cloth from the covers on her table. Those were the days that all tables had to be covered. The dining room table had lace covers made from hand by someone in the family. She had the lace covers on everything. They had to be put on the living room chair arms and the backs of the chairs also. Then they were tacked down with some kind of small size tack to hold them in place. I never figured out what the object of all these covers were. But every home had them.

We had to go back out the back door, down the stairs and to the right to get to the door of the basement. The entry to the basement was exactly like the one in The Wizard Of Oz. You pulled up both white wooden doors and walked down into the basement. I had to stand on a wood crate to reach the naked bulb with the gold chain hanging from it to light the room.
The first load was washing and it was my favorite load. I could hear the whir whir whir of the wringer washer going around agitating the load. The basement smelled humid and steamy. I inhaled the odor of Clorox bleach. Everything in the basement held a fog over it. Along the back walls were the canned fruit and vegetables and the glass was sweating like it was laying on the beach.

When that load was finished I was allowed to feed some of the items into the wringer. I learned very quickly what the arm on the end of the wringer was for. Some times you are so busy wringing, your arm goes in with the clothes. Grandma tried scaring me by telling me my uncle Jim lost his arm feeding the wringer too fast. I believed it for a short time. I never did find out the truth, but one of his arms was missing from the elbow down.
The thing I don't remember is the rinse portion. The clothes had to be rinsed, but I guess I only remember the parts I liked the best.

Grandpa wore a snow white shirt and long apron to work every day. Grandma starched and ironed everything. I had a fetish for Argo starch. It came in a box and the starch was in the form of small, soft, white rocks. When I became tired I would take the Argo starch box and climb up on one of the dirt walls. I would sit there and eat the starch. Why did I do that? I don't know. Grandma allowed me eat it because she said I was lacking something in my system or I wouldn't eat it. She also let me eat small rocks and dirt for the same reason.
One day I swallowed a rock and today I still laugh about it. My mother was in the yard with me when I swallowed it. It was caught in my throat in such a way I could not speak. It just sat there. She kept asking me stupid questions and I kept trying to tell her I couldn't speak. Finally I attempted hitting myself on the back. She stands there like we are playing Charades. Grandma was shaking out the sheets and hanging them on the line. I guess when I started to turn blue she decided to come over and take charge of the situation. The serious look on her face never changed as she grabbed me by the arm and jerked me off my feet with one hand and slapped me the back with the other. There went the stone flying out of my mouth. I thought I was dead. I was saying prayers that I didn't even know I knew the words to. Grandma Strange looked at my mother and I with her "severe" look and said, " daughter, go home! Grandaughter, come with me."

I thought she needed me to help fry some donut holes.

1 comment:

kwrenb said...

Why does your location say "Afghanistan"?