Saturday, November 7, 2015

It All Comes Out In The Wash

Girlfriend of mine from aikido had a bunch of the aikido girls over for dinner last night: six of us total ranging in age from 35-50.  Really fun evening.  The hostess's taste in decoration is cool and funky, ranging from mid-century American to historic Asian pieces plus odd bits of antique bric-a-brac that all somehow fuse together into a really interesting whole.  She has no children, and at one point I observed wryly that I would love to live in her house if I could somehow wrap my kids permanently in bubble wrap so they wouldn't break anything!

At any rate, on her kitchen wall there is an antique washboard, but a much smaller one than I've ever seen before. Wandering over to look at it more closely before dinner, I noticed that the ridged surface was made of glass, not the usual metal.  I wondered aloud what that might have been used for, and one of the other ladies answered immediately that it was probably a travel sized washboard intended for laundering more delicate items.  My surprise must have showed on my face, so she went on to explain that in her childhood in India, her mother had one similar to it, which she used to wash the clothing that she didn't trust to the neighborhood washerwoman.  The other ladies were listening to this exchange, and I was floored when two of them added that they had also regularly seen washboards used during their childhoods, one in Singapore and the other in Colombia.  That just boggled my mind, although in retrospect it shouldn't have.

Bearing in mind that I live in an inordinately white-bread corner of America, I continue to be amazed that I've managed to find such a cosmopolitan and international group of friends here, and that it was in a martial arts dojo of all places.  Between the two styles I study, I have friends from these three countries plus France, Egypt, the Philippines, China and Iran that I can think of just off the top of my head.

And incidentally, having now looked carefully at a washboard for the first time in years, I am even more grateful than usual for the advent of electricity and modern technology.  I doubt sincerely that it would be up to the challenge of detoxifying the soccer socks that end up in the laundry at my house, and the sheer quantity of laundry here would make even the most determined washerwoman throw in the washboard!


  1. In Liberia all clothes I had were washed by washboard if upscale - otherwise by rubbing them together. Washing machines exist there, but water and electricity supplies are very shady, and it provides more employment opportunities to have them all done by hand.

    That wasn't your point, but I have very strong washboard associations ...

  2. Ok, now I'm curious: is the washboard gentler? More effective? Haven't spent this much time contemplating washing in years. :)

    1. No, washboards are REALLY hard on clothes. Effectiveness depends on the person using it. There was one person who would just dunk the clothes in a bucket and then hang them - it was so gross. Because Liberia is one of the rainiest places on earth, so not a lot of sunlght to disinfect things.

      I'm a fan of washing machines myself, and I could be ok if I never have to handwash everything again in a bucket with harsh detergent. But if I do have to, I'll live. Amazing how we adapt.

  3. Indeed. You more than most, my friend!!


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