Recently, my mom reminisced about wash days of yore. I don’t know how that topic wound its way into our conversation, but I can share this semi-verbatim account of her monologue.
“People talk about how hard wash day is now,” she began, “well, I had to walk up the hill, get the water, and carry it down the hill in buckets. Then, I had to do the washing in a wringer washer and hang it out on the line to dry.”
Firstly, let me say that she makes an excellent point. If washing were more taxing than throwing some clothes and detergent into a machine and, later, throwing the clean clothes into another machine, then I would probably just wear dirty clothes.
Secondly, I studied on Mom’s monologue for days, asking myself, “Self, why did she have to go up the hill to fetch the pails of water?”
So, I asked her a semi-verbatim version of that question, to which she answered, “When me and your daddy set up housekeeping here, we didn’t have a well. We had to use the well that was on the hill.”
You might be wondering why there was a well on a hill but not one in the valley. As it turns out, a great-great-great uncle of mine (and so many others) had once lived on the hill across from our house. Hence, the well.
Anyway, Mom also explained that after she and the water made their way down the hill, she had to heat said water on a cook stove before finally getting around to washing.
By this point in her story, I was so tired thinking about all the work she had to do just to wash a few clothes that I was ready for a nap. I had other questions, though, so I soldiered on.
“What did you do in the winter?” I asked next.
“We had our own well by then.”
“So, you only had to retrieve the water from the hill for a few months?”
Although Mom agreed with my assessment of the situation, my smarty-pants sister said, “Did you hear that? Michelle’s like, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad.’”
If you’re reading this, smarty-pants sister, I have two words for you – shut up.
Of course, as Mom explained, even after they had their own well near the house, she still had to lug the water inside, heat it on the cook stove, etc. She maintained, however, that her experiences mean that in the event we lose indoor plumbing, she’ll be able to instruct us on how to manage wash day.
I already know what I’d do. I’d wear dirty clothes.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.