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August 25, 2015
According to Hoole
My Mothers' Wash Day
by Daryl Hoole

“You’re doing the washing on your birthday?” I was appalled. My mother was going to spend her birthday doing the family laundry. Such a thing was unthinkable to my five-year-old mind.

Vowing to my young self that I would never ever in all my life do the laundry on my birthday, I felt keenly disappointed in my mother for not planning her life better. A birthday is huge when you’re five, and I couldn’t imagine anything important enough to interfere with the day.

For my mother, the washing was an all-day labor — filling the Dexter washing machine’s double tubs with water, stirring up a pan of starch on one burner of the stove, warming a pan of bluing (to make the white clothing whiter) on another, feeding each item of clothing through the wringer from the wash tub to the rinse tubs, then passing everything back through the wringer to the clothes basket, and finally hanging the wash on the line to dry — and to me, it was the most unbirthday-like thing anyone could possibly do.

It was years before I realized that maybe my mother wanted to do the laundry that day, even though it was her birthday. Maybe Mother wanted to have clean clothing for her family even more than she wanted personal pleasures.

Lots of birthdays have come and gone for me, and it has become clear that life is not really about how much fun we can have on our birthdays.

It’s not even about whether we were the generation who used the double-tub Dexter, or the previous one who hauled water from the spring, heated it over an open fire, and made their own soap; or the current one who just sets a dial and presses the “on” button.

Life is about doing our duty, whatever it may be. It’s about serving those we love.

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