Grandma’s Note To A New Bride.
Story by Pamela R. Blaine (Author)
A friend of mine recently sent me an article on how to wash clothes. Yes, I do know how to wash clothes but this wasn’t just about throwing in a load of clothes, adding detergent, and pushing a button. It was advice from years ago from a Grandmother to a new bride. It went something like this:
How To Wash Clothes
- Build a fire in the back yard
- Fill a kettle with rain water from the rain barrel
- Set up tubs so the smoke won’t blow in your eyes
- Shave one whole cake of soap in bilin’ water
- Sort into 3 piles: whites, colored, work britches, and rags
- Make starch by stirring flour in cool water to smooth, then with bilin’ water.
- Take whites and rub dirty spots on washboard, scrub hard, then bile
- Rub colored, don’t bile, just rinch and starch
- Take things out of kettle with broomstick handle, then rinch
- Spread tea towels on grass, hang old rags on fence
- Pour rinse water on flower bed
- Scrub porch with hot soapy water
- Turn tubs upside down
- Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with combs, brew a cup of tea
- Sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.
Maybe we should place a copy of this above our automatic washers and read it when we get discouraged and count our blessings!
As I thought about it, my mind went back to when I was a little girl and we had an electric Maytag wringer washing machine. She was a white enameled beauty! I remember how glad Mom was to have that washing machine.
I loved washday as a child because that meant I got to finger-paint. Mom would cook up a batch of starch on the stove and then let it cool. The starch was a lovely translucent blue and smelled much like a fresh breeze after a spring rain. I would be given a piece of paper and a little bowl of the starch. The creative juices would flow as I made trees, houses, and little stick people with my gooey fingers. The pictures would be put aside to dry and then I would be allowed to help with whatever tasks Mama would give me according to my age ability. I knew that I was surely grown up when Mama let me run clothes through the wringer because using the wringer could be dangerous. Sometimes accidents did occur because a child would climb up unnoticed and get an arm in the wringer. Mama taught me early on to hit the safety release if needed.
By the time I was eleven years old, I could do most of the washing by myself, and sometimes I would go down the road to Grandma’s house and help her do her washing. It was from her that I learned how to hang clothes properly. You didn’t just throw up a pillowcase and stick a clothespin in it. At least that wasn’t Grandma’s way. She showed me how to hang them so the breeze would blow inside of the pillowcase so it would dry more quickly. Also, you would just NEVER hang things all mixed up. For instance, all the towels were hung in a row together, as well as washcloths all together, shirts and so on. She also showed me how to hang your unmentionables inside of the sheets so they couldn’t be seen if someone happened by.
If you didn’t have much clothesline, you had to take the dry things down and hang up more wet ones, and sometimes we used the fence for extra space. Monday really was usually designated as washday; however, the weather was the main factor. Ideally, Grandma liked to wash on a sunny day when there was a good breeze. The winter was sometimes a different story, when you brought in overalls frozen so stiff you could just stand them in a corner until they thawed out and the house looked kind of spooky with clothes just standing around.
Although washday is much easier with an automatic machine, I still like to hang clothes outside. I remember Grandma as I hang out the pillowcases. They smell so fresh and look so nice flapping in the breeze. I still follow the last item on that list?
I hang out those clothes, sit and rock a spell, and count my blessings.
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