I bought a new washing machine a few weeks ago. My previous one had decided it was tired of the way I push buttons and twist knobs. In my silly moments (okay, no comments from the peanut gallery!), I could hear the overworked machine demand to know why I couldn’t set the dials once and leave it alone. After eleven faithful years of hard service, the long-suffering appliance went to washer heaven, wherever that may be.
Shopping is supposed to be fun, right? I have a different view. This was a shop-till-you-drop situation and nearly drove me to triple shots of espresso instead of my usual double. However, I eventually found exactly what I wanted—even handwash for my delicate unmentionables as my blushing grandmother called them. As soon as the deliveryman left, I carefully read the instructions, and then pushed buttons and twisted knobs so the machine of my dreams could work its magic.
Moments later, I heard a rumble that took me back to my childhood on a small, hillside farm near Weaverville, North Carolina, back to a Maytag wringer washing machine on our back porch. It was on the porch because there wasn’t room inside the house.
John and Carrie Lovelace reared seven children in that small house, their oldest son being on board a Navy ship somewhere in the Pacific when we moved there. The house still stands among the pines but the farm lies fallow now. I wonder if it will ever again witness the happiness my siblings and I enjoyed. However, there were also a few spots of unhappiness along the way.
This is one of them.
On that unforgettable day, I watched Momma’s hands as she carefully guided a pillowcase through the Maytag wringer. After a few moments, she stepped inside the kitchen for a reason I have long forgotten. In the infinite wisdom of every seven-year-old girl ever born, I decided I could do what she did. I could push something through those tight rollers and watch the water flow back into the tub as the fabric come out the other side.
I pulled up a pillowcase from the tub, shook it out just like Momma had done, and just like her, I guided it into the wringer. That’s where our similarity ended. The wringer didn’t eat her fingers. She didn’t scream like the hog that Daddy had butchered a few days before. She scolded me while she released my fingers from the hungry monster and continued to scold as she wiped my tears.
That faithful old Maytag finally went on to its just reward. I leave what that was to your imagination. I never heard if it ate any other fingers. Perhaps other family members were more careful than I was, or as I prefer to believe, they weren’t the ‘Momma’s little helper’ that I was.
Now sitting level, my new machine no longer rumbles but does have some peculiarities—eating fingers is not one of them—and, in time, will go on to its reward. However, this G.E. won’t leave behind the memories our old Maytag did. It won’t remind me of Momma’s gentle hands guiding laundry through a wringer nor those same gentle hands pulling my hand from the jaws of a girl-eating monster.