Wednesday, June 22, 2005

broken washer

I already managed to break something on my wringer washer . Arrrgh! Grandma used the thing for forty years, no problem, and I have the thing one week and something breaks. It's the wringer bushing assembly, the thing that holds one of the rollers in place. Maybe I tried to feed something too thick through the wringers. At least, thanks to Russ' web surfing this morning, he located someone in Illinois who carries parts for old Maytags. The nice thing about this washer is that anyone, even someone as mechanically inept as me, can look at it and make a reasonable guess what's wrong. There is no complicated circuitry, no fancy touch pads or automated dials.

Maybe this is my punishment for not sitting down and having a nice long talk with Grandma and asking her about the ins and outs (little pun there) of wringer washer use. I sometimes forget that she grew up in an age like no other, when electricity and automobiles and washing machines went from being new ideas to ways of life. She grew up on a farm, one of six siblings, daughter of a Swedish immigrant and a first generation Swedish American in Grasston, Minnesota. She knows the Swedish language well enough that she is occasionally called upon to translate early church records. She probably knows a lot about what I am trying to learn, about raising food and canning and washing clothes and sewing and other farm home activities. I have learned to can pickles and tomatoes from her.

I find it hard to ask her about life on the farm, however. When I tell her we're raising chickens she'll tell me what a horrible job it was to butcher them and how she would never do that again. She tells me of long hard days spent weeding gardens and digging potatoes. To this day she is insecure about her cooking ability because she was constantly told her sister was a better cook. So whenever we talk about the old days, I get the idea that she doesn't understand why I want to do things that way because it's so much easier to buy food from the store. I think many people from her generation accepted the idea that modern conveniences would save them lots of hard, menial work. I seem to be the only one in my family that sees things in a different light. I'm the only one who expressed any interest in the wringer washer.

6 comments:

Erich said...

Don't feel bad about breaking the wringer washer. After all, it was forty years old!

Also, don't feel bad if you're forty years old. In washing machine years your wringer is four hundred.

On a serious note, I often wonder about the incidence of depression in the old days. I used to think that it wasn't reported because people would just bootstrap rather than talk about feelings. I still believe that, but also wonder if all the menial work filled the voids that we now feel with our detached lifestyles.

Deb said...

Heyyy...I'm not forty...yet. :)

I think you're on to something there. My grandma is kind of obsessed with smiling and happiness; I mean, she never ever dwells on bad feelings or things, she tells the kids to smile when that may be the farthest thing from their minds, she tells me her father was always "such a happy person". That may have been her way of dealing with the reality of the situation, to bury the bad stuff and focus on the good. To smile when you feel like crying. It drives me crazy sometimes, and I think it may have affected my mom more than just a little bit.

My Siberian husky is out. Gotta go. More later.

Erich said...

Oh, don’t worry. You don’t seem forty, nor do you act it.

It’s funny that you concluded your smile/crying comment with having to go get your husky. To me nothing makes a person want to simultaneously smile and cry (or scream) like a dog.

Last night Amber and I took the dogs swimming and I said, “I sure like these dogs.” The next moment Ky, the floppy lab, came out of the water and shook off right next to us while we were eating.

Deb said...

Yep, dogs will do it to you. Togo (the husky) was just trying to remind me that he hadn't been taken for a walk lately. He's a frisky pup, and strong. We also have Lady, the hover dog, a yellow lab who has a constant need for affirmation from humans.

Your story about Pooptooth tops everything my dogs have ever done, however!

Sylvia said...

I once asked my grandmother how they stored food and whatnot before plastic and she just said things are much better now. End of conversation. As I later found out, she grew up on a farm and saw her mother slave from dawn til dusk, so it's no wonder grandma took the modern advancements and ran with them.

I think women have benefited the most from labour-saving technology, and it's going to be a nasty wake-up call as we run out of oil and have to give that stuff up. I don't know if you saw that PBS series where people lived like 1880's homesteaders. The women hated it. Their work was drudgery. They would much rather have worked with the men, building stuff, plowing, haying, but that's just not efficient where muscle is the main power source. I wonder if there is a feminist critique of the back to the land movement?!

Deb said...

It's not exactly a feminist critique, but I recently read a book called "Back From The Land: how young Americans went to nature in the 1970's and why they came back" by Eleanor Agnew. Basically it said how "living off the land" was virtually impossible in the social and economic context of the late twentieth century, and the romance of it all wore off quickly.

I enjoyed the Frontier House series. I wonder if women's work was more drudgery because it seemed like an endless cycle-laundry, dishes, cooking, where it never appeared that they were getting ahead or accomplishing anything. But someone had to do it...

I certainly am glad I don't have to scrub clothes by hand, on a wahsboard. I think we'd be going naked if that were the case. ;)