I don’t know where it came from or how old it is; it has just “always been.”.
“It” is a wooden wash stick that belonged to my mother and now belongs to me. You can tell from the photo how old and worn it is, As far back as I can remember my Mom used the stick while doing laundry. I was raised in the country in the ’50s and early ’60s—didn’t become “city-fied” until I was a teenager. Doing laundry back in those days was no easy chore.
Mom had an electric “wringer type” washer. The electric part of it was what agitated the clothes in the tub and activated the wringer to squeeze the water out of the clothing….each item in the washer was fed by hand into the wringer, one piece at a time!! There was no way to heat the water in the washer tub, so water was first heated on the kitchen stove in big pots and carried to the washer. Then Mom added detergent and the dirty clothes, using the wooden stick to push the clothes down into the hot water. Once a load was complete the water was emptied through a hose, and then the washer was filled with cold water for rinsing (and putting each piece through the wringer again). We did not have an electric clothes dryer so everything was hung on outdoor clotheslines.
Our washer was located on our back porch, and my Mom did laundry year-round in all kinds of temperatures. I can remember a few times when the weather was so bitter cold that she rolled the machine into the kitchen for laundry (and the clothes froze on the lines). When we moved to the city in 1963, Mom was able to have a totally electric washer AND dryer….but the stick made the move with us, and she still used it to push the clothes down into the water.
Mom passed in 2018, and when we emptied her home I found the stick where it had always resided—atop the washer. It came home with me, and yes, I use it to submerge the clothes once my top loading washer has filled. My husband tells me I do not have to use the stick…that once I close the lid the washer will begin to agitate and pull the clothes down into the water. True….but the stick lets me know if I have enough water for the load or if I might need to move to add more water. Besides, that’s the way my Momma did it!!!
(c) 2021 Leslie O. Kelley
Janine’s note: We often remember those we love by “doing” what was an important part of their lives as well as ours. By “doing” we honor their memory as well as their love.