Friday, May 14, 2010

THE WRINGER (Me, Mom, and laundry)


I was the baby so I
spent a lot of time with Mom
watching her perform the mundane tasks
of suburban housewifery
that would eventually lead her to alcoholism

But back then they were fun
The radio was always on
Roger Miller singing King of the Road
We'd sing along
She taught me to harmonize when I was four

Downstairs to do laundry
A humungous circular washer, a wringer
And a clothesline out back
To her this was heaven
having survived the Depression

All these conveniences
meant just for her
In those days, she saw her life as luxurious
And she saw me as company
and the only friend around

After poking a stick into the washing
to make sure the detergent had really dissolved
She drained it and refilled to rinse
Man, she really took the stick to that
Everything had to be clean, perfect, worthy

But the best part
Before the hanging on the line with wooden clothespins
(Someone should invent something with a spring,
she said absentmindedly one day
Her mom was a genius, too)

Was the wringer
The clothes being strangled as they
gave up almost every drop of their being
I pretended they were bad people who were being punished
I prayed for them but secretly relished their fate

Back then it was easy
We'd go upstairs and have coffee (mine was mostly milk)
She light a Lucky and we'd sit
gazing out the window to the fields beyond
Soundtrack by The Lettermen and Peggy Lee

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

1 comment:

  1. I loved this poem, Amy. We had a wringer washer in the basement when I was a kid, but I never remember it being used, though it must have been. I do remember when my parents got a front loader; and my aunt and uncle came to visit and everyone sat in the basement watching the machine automatically wash clothes....entranced by it. Simple pleasures! Your nostalgic poem jogged my memory. Thank you!