Boiled Clothes

2

 legs stretched out

Her washing machine –  hooked to the sink in
her bathroom – I still can see a hose so long

Water enters a basket – connects to the side of
her machine –  a second hose empties dirty water
into a porcelain tub with feet like a lion.

Grandmother told me what a wringer was, 
the color of a rolling pin – stretching dough – now 
clothes kept being stretched – stretched – over,
and over as she stood, sweating, making long tubes
of cloth – over and over  – twisting dirty laundry –

Women in her village in Sicily carried dirty laundry –
down a stone path, near the village square; everyone
washed their clothes in the same water and later her

walk home took longer as she lugged wet, not twisted
clothes back up the hill.  “Never clear,” she told me
as she twisted her clothes back and forth, “too many 
people in our village,” she reminded me to twist you

need strong arms.  She twists – shakes underwear,
work clothes, towels,  and her aprons.  I am staring as
she stares at each piece of cloth, her arm’s extended
searching for a dirty spot. She never said soiled.

Clean clothes receive a gentle swing – others
tossed into a black and white tub which was placed
on the bathroom floor.

Grandmother would take the tub from the floor into
the kitchen where a copper kettle boiled.  “Stand back,”
she directed;  watched each twisted, dirty cloth drop
into her pot; water splashes up – over copper as I 
slide across her cold floor –  backwards.

Now back to her machine – she steps over my legs
stretched out in front of me – my eyes watch once more –
hands twist cloth – a gentle shake – a smile – “Clean.”

I wanted to clap like Grandmother when her job was
finished, it took all day today, and  every other day –
washing clothes and boiling stains out of cloth. 
She would bend, tickle me, I laughed as her hand’s 
 sprinkled water on my head – my legs move – as I stand

to watch her lift the big hose  from her tub, rolls her
machine back against the wall.  She cleans the tub -lugs wet
clothes from the bathroom down a flight of stairs to our

yard, and hands them to me carefully, one by
one.  She never talked with a clothes pin in her mouth.

When winter came she climbed up stairs into her attic,
placed wet clothes over newspapers on a clothes line.
It was my job – to hand her clothes pins, the extra one
in her mouth. I never understood why Grandmother
hung her clothes over newspaper in the attic.

2 Comments
  1. ClaudetteWalkerAuthor says

    Nancy Denofio is wonderful at bringing the past to life!

  2. Nancy Duci Denofio says

    Thank you Claudette. History is life – I find it fascinating how people have survived through the years. Sincerely, Nancy Have a wonderful day.

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