Monday, May 02, 2005

Baile Rochel #5 Thank G-d I'm Not a Washing Machine!

Baile Rochel’s Back! #5
The 22nd of Nissan
May 1, 2005

Thank G-d, I’m Not A Washing Machine!

I usually have a very good concept of space, time and numbers. I’m one of those people who takes out just the right container to hold all the leftovers, no wasted space and nothing spilling over.

So when I say, “I’ve lost track of how many washes I’ve done today,” then that washing machine has been abused. And even worse, there’s more waiting in the wings, or should I say “on the floor.” I didn’t even come close to finishing. I still have all the dark washes, black socks and pantyhose clamoring to be laundered, stinking up a storm and competing with more sheets, towels and blanket covers.

Today is the day after Passover, a weeklong holiday. This year was even longer, since Shabbat immediately preceded it. Chol Hamo’ed, or the “intermediate days” of the holiday have some of the restrictions of Jewish Holidays but not all of them. One of the things we aren’t supposed to do is the laundry. I must admit that when I had a full house, I did plenty of laundry.

Please don’t call me a sinner! Would you want to have dirty diapers fermenting in your house? And even if the stink turns you on, do you really think we used to have enough cloth diapers to last over a week? When I first became a mother we still didn’t have a washing machine.

That’s right, I was a young bride washerwoman. Everyday I filled our bathtub with the dirty laundry, let it soak, then I scrubbed and rinsed. We lived in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a historic building that had an open roof, with a terrace just perfect for hanging clothes. I always liked to hang clothes in the sun. In Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY, where I spent my childhood, there were special laundry drying areas near all the buildings, set up with rows and rows of lines. All the mothers hung up wash, and I loved to help. When it was too cold and wet, we used the coin-dryers in the building’s laundry room, and I loved to clean the lint out of the filters. As long as nobody expected me to sort, fold and put away I loved laundry. (Nothing’s changed in that department.)

It was a major trauma when a roof was put over my clotheslines. No longer could I hang my dripping wet wash in the warm, dry sun. How were we ever going to get it dry? My husband discovered that there was a place on our picturesque domed roof, near where the neighboring Arab women hung their wash. So I soaked and scrubbed and he schlepped the wash out to the roof to dry.

Everything was fine until spring. Spring in Jerusalem isn’t quite spring in Europe or New York. Yes, it does warm up, but it comes with a price—sandstorms. As a native New Yorker, I had read about sandstorms and seen depictions in movies, but nothing prepared me for the reality. Sand storms meant that the laundry came off the line even dirtier than it started. Image hanging wash on the beach where some kids are having a sand fight. Just ask my husband about it, and he’ll start scratching as the sensation of sandy undershirts returns.

Shhh… don’t let anyone know, but I did something not quite legal. All of our clothes and linens were imbedded with sand, so I really had no choice. A couple of times a week, I’d fill two large bags with our laundry and visit a friend in a “merkaz klita,” “immigrant absorption center.” There was a Laundromat there for the residents, and I rationalized that I was also a new immigrant and deserved the same right to launder. As I became more comfortable with the facilities, I’d even hang out my wash on the lines that reminded me of my childhood. I’d have a wonderful time visiting my friend and her baby, and later in the day, when my wash had dried, I’d take it off the line and go home.

When our first child was born, in the middle of the summer, we moved into our Jerusalem apartment that had the most irresistible clotheslines. Still no washing machine, and the diapers arrived, twice a week from a “service.” In exchange I’d give them the wet and dirty ones. And I was still washing the rest of the laundry by hand. Let nobody call me a “spoiled American!”

Oy, that was a long time ago. We’re on our fourth washing machine, and I treat it like a member of the family. I could never imagine having to launder by hand again; I don’t even do my hand-washing by hand. If it can’t go safely in the machine, then it should be dry cleaned, and if that’s no good, then I’d rather toss it, trash it.

I paid my dues. I scrubbed and rubbed and rinsed and squeezed.

Baruch Hashem, Thank G-d, I’m no longer a washing machine!

Baile Rochel
Copyright©2005BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.


wendy said...

Laundry! Love it!

Batya said...

something we all have in common