Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Good-bye Old Girl..."*


It started before Aunt Ruth died.

The Laundrymat on 13th Street, now an expensive dessert place of cereal flavored milk, was packed with cheap, big machines in a small crowded concrete storefront. It was run mostly by the Russian wife, and occasionally by her husband but never by her son who looked like her in sideburns. Tons of quarters were poured into plastic dishes for the machines and little boxes of soap were for sale under the always-on TV.

Just like an old bar, it was packed every day with its regulars. All the Chinese extended families from 12th Street, the differently-able adults from the residence on 2nd Avenue, a couple of former drinking buddies of mine from 13th Street, and the growing post NYU market-rate tenants who more often than not dropped their bags of dirty clothes off to be done for them.

Keeping my clothes clean and pristine hid the fact they were old or third-hand or that I couldn't afford new ones. So that laundrymat was important to me. I nodded to the same folks every week, jockeyed with frenemies for a dryer or a washer, caught up on my People Magazine reading and commended my favorite young man from the residence on his detergent pouring technique. (He was most proud he could do his own laundry.)

And then disaster struck. Someone's ballpoint pen stuck in a machine ruined most of my carefully preserved clothes. It wasn't the first time something like this had happened. But when I complained to the son he told me it hadn't happened, even while staring at Jasper John-like streaks on a beige windbreaker.

Then almost immediately after that, Aunt Ruth died and left me some money - just enough to buy my own washer-dryer unit.

Suddenly, like a few of my better off neighbors, I had the means to put myself in the realm of utter rich luxury. I was going to be able to cross over into a comfort of living I never could have imagined ever.

The minute my washer-dryer combo unit was installed I immediately started doing all the laundry I could gather, load after load after load. I forced myself to stop only because a friend was doing a reading at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble, now a luxury, upscale gym. The minute the reading was over I rushed back to do more laundry.

In the next 15 years, I loved that combo washer-dryer more than I loved several boyfriends. There was only one I loved as much and we happily did each others' laundry until the day he left.

Then some years ago, something broke and the washer tub tilted and groaned and scarcely swirled.

The repair guy, warning me never to leave the house while doing a load, quoted a number that was beyond my budget. Still, even half turned on its side and barely rotating, the washer kept my still modest collection of clothes pristine for a couple of more years. I thought it, like laundry with that man I had loved, would go on forever, regardless of broken pieces and limited abilities.

Until tonight. A simple load thrown in produced a flood from the insides. There was no more denying. My beloved little washer was tired. I coaxed another load on a gentler cycle but I could tell there was nothing left it could do.

For friends who grew up with such an appliance in their homes, my attachment to this has been a bit odd. But perhaps it is similar to say a kid in the suburbs getting his or her driver's license or their first car. It is a mark of coming of age. For other than that time of laundry and love, it has been my greatest success at bringing comfort and care into my home.


Damn Yankees

Goodbyr old friend
My old friend
There's somethin' I must let you know
I haven't said it much
I guess I've lost my touch
But, my old girl, I love you so

8 comments:

mybabyjohn said...

OMG I am So with you on this. When we moved into our house 24 years and a bit ago the first thing we bought ourselves was a washer and dryer. We had enough of laundry rooms and laundromats to do us a lifetime. In all these 24 years I have never once taken our machines for granted. We are on our second set now.
I am SO sorry for your loss. I hope you can manage a second set for yourself. Having your own laundry machines is a hard luxury to give up.

bucko said...

O the washer/dryer love is the hardest
To leave and live on after
The swish swash swush of its cycles
Ended in a single, loud thump
That my heart echoed
Once.

Elisabeth Lohninger said...

oh NOOOO! no more dulcet tones of galloping mustangs in your apartment while we try to watch monty pytons? it just won't be the same!!! I am truly sorry...

VH McKenzie said...

"...but never by her son who looked like her in sideburns. "

Perfection!

We have a free W/D unit in a hallway closet on each floor of our building, shared by the two units on each floor. I don't think I would have survived parenthood without it -- do you know how often babies spit up on themselves, not to mention, ahem, diaper leakage?

I feel as if I spent the entire first 3 sleep-deprived months of being a mother standing in my in front of the W/D in my nightgown. Schlepping to a laundromat would have put me over right the edge.

My condolences.

Melanie said...

Happy New Year Claire. You inspire me to write. I had a similar experience with a dishwasher!!!

c.o. moed said...

It's amazing what these dear old machines mean to us. So much that I'm now considering repairs....

City Of Strangers said...

Hi CO - as someone who loathes doing laundry, even in my own house, I can certainly relate. But before I reached my present situation, I went to dropoff. I'd walk the extra couple of blocks if I had to. Didn't they have this? It just made life so much easier - the couple of bucks extra was worth the couple of hours not spent in the laundromat.

Mind you, in Montreal, where I lived for a long time, laundromats had a scene all their own. A friend of mine met his wife in one. Maybe I should have hung out more . . .

T.

Goggla said...

I've often said the first thing I would buy with lotto winnings would be a washer/dryer. Having your own is a luxury that's just taken for granted in more suburban areas. Oh, the loss!