THE WISHY WASHY

IMG_0049.JPG“Tell me haggard washer woman,whose clothes are washed this day?  I see the robes of a nobleman, Within your basket lay…..Bean Nighe

Living in Nashville, one could never depend on the weather in winter to be able to hang clothes on the line to dry and taking clothes to the Wishy Washy, the local laundro-mat, was near impossible when you had to haul a baby and a three year old and the basket of dirty clothes to boot. There were simply not enough hands on one person to do all of that, much less the stress it caused. Not to mention, you had to sit in the Wishy Washy for several hours while your clothes processed from the washer to the dryer. They didn’t just jump there on their own. In those days, money was not available to have the clothes washed and dried by the attendant or did she have the cost of a baby sitter to watch the children if Annie did it herself. So in her usual fashion, Annie began to campaign to get a dryer. She was sure that a dryer would solve all of her problems.(She was always sure of the outcome when she began one of her campaigns.) She began by purposely hanging wet clothes all over the house to get dry. There would be nary a room or piece of furniture that did not have a piece of wet clothing hanging on it. Of course, her baby and three year old thought that their Momma had introduced some sort of new game. They began by taking the clothing off the place where it was hanging and dropping it on to the floor (which was not always the cleanest having two little kids around) and for some reason, it made them laugh like crazy. Her husband, Jack, would often find a cheerio or two in his pants pocket or stuck in the folds of his shirts and he began to complain just a tad (that was part of her plan).
Annie would answer by telling him that when it was so cold out that the clothes would freeze on the line, she just had no other choice but to hang them wherever she could find a space. But of course, if she had a clothes dryer, she wouldn’t have to do that. Jack understood, but was firm in his answer. “It’s just not in the budget right now, Annie. Maybe if I get a raise or a bonus, we can handle it, but not right now.”
Annie knew that she was going to have to find a plan B. She began to think and that could be dangerous as she had a way of mulling over the most ridiculous of ideas. It hit her that her mother-in-law went to the Wishy Washy a couple of times a week. She would drop off the dirty clothes and pay the attendent to put them in the washer and dryer and fold them. “Hmmm.” Annie’s brain began to speed up and ideas rolled around in it. “Now, if I could do her laundry, she could pay me instead of the attendant at The Wishy Washy and I could use that money to pay for the dryer on an installment plan. I wonder if Jack would buy that?”
That night she cooked his favorite meal and got all dressed up before he got home. She knew that he thought something was going on as soon as he walked through the door.   He elected to enjoy the performance from his wife. After dinner, she put the kids to bed and poured them a glass of wine and began to seduce him (and not with sex but that was not past her when she really wanted something). She became as sweet as honey dripping off a bee.  She began her ploy by saying, “Jack, did you know that Dolly Parton met her husband while doing her dirty laundry at The Wishy Washy?  The same one that your Mother uses.  Well, I was thinking that I could take in your Mother’s laundry and pay for the dryer.”  He was always amused when she concocked these little schemes of hers, so he allowed her to go on and on and on.
Finally she asked, “Well, what do you think?”                                                                      He stiffled a chuckle and asked, “Hmm, where did you hear that about Dolly Parton?”                                                     “Oh stop it, that’s not the question and you know it.”                                                     “Well, let me mull it over for a bit.” He was sure that he could get more out of the deal if he just strung her along and he did for the next two days. Just as he thought, he got the royal treatment. He knew that he was pushing his luck when she started to get pouty.
“Annie, I’ve been thinking about your little scheme and I think it will work, but you will have to get Mother to agree with it before we buy the dryer.”
“Why can’t you ask her? She’s your Mother, and it’s your laundry that I’m washing.”
“Well, I’m not the one dying for a dryer.”
The next day, Annie invited her Mother-in-love (as she had always called her) over for coffee. She put the proposal to her and she immediately said yes. Annie was beyond estastic and she couldn’t wait to tell Jack. (Jack knew that his Mother would do anything for Annie. She always told him that she was the best thing he had ever brought home.)
Sears and Roebuck delivered the dryer the very next week. Annie was so excited. She immediately called her Mother-in-Love, Speedy, to tell her that Annie’s Wishy Washy was open for her business. Little did she know, how much laundry that Speedy did every week.
Speedy dropped off her dirty laundry the next day and said she would be back at three to pick it up. Annie put the clothes in the washer and went about her day. The baby threw up his breakfast, then her three year old, Cindy, put hundreds of cheerios behind the radiator. She totally missed the buzzer that told her that the washer had completed its cycle. About one o’clock, she remembered that she hadn’t put the clothes in the dryer. She scurried down the basement stairs and threw them in the dryer. When she returned, the baby had thrown his bananna off the high chair tray and it was slithering down the wall. She gathered the kids up and took them upstairs to take a nap. Then back to cleaning the browning bananna off the wall. Then she discovered as she slid down to the lineoleum, that he had dripped milk from his sippy cup all over the floor.(They should change the name of that thing to drippy cup, she grumbled under her breath.) But the dryer was happily running.
By the time, she got the kid’s messes cleaned up and the roast out of the freezer, nap time was over. Once again, she missed the dryer buzzer. It was about two thirty when she realized that Speedy would be over to pick up the laundry in thirty minutes. She put the baby in the play pen and ran down to get the clothes. She brought them upstairs to fold. They seemed a little wrinkly (actually quite a bit wrinkly as she had left them in the dryer too long. Maybe Speedy wouldn’t notice.) She began to fold them and put them in the basket. Cindy was playing with her doll and baby Eddie was happy in the playpen. She finally thought that she would make the deadline. Whew, she just finished as Speedy came through the front door. As she went to greet her, she noticed in the corner of her eye that Cindy was now in the basket of clean folded clothes with her doll. She was having a great time wallowing in them. Speedy saw her granddaughter and Annie almost freaked out. “Isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw.” She hugged her granddaughter as Annie tried to straighten up the clothes. She handed Annie the money, played with the kids and took her basket and was off.
That evening, Jack wanted to know how the first day of doing his Mother’s laundry went. Annie lied. “Why, it was great. A snap to do. No sweat.”

Two days had passed when Speedy called at seven a.m. to say that she would be dropping off her laundry shortly and would be back at three to pick it up. Annie began to wonder, how in the world can four people have so much laundry. I think Jack’s Dad even sends his white shirts to the laundry. Oh well, the more I do, the quicker I can get this dryer paid for. She looked around and noticed that she had two baskets of her own laundry to do plus she had two friends coming over for a play date. Speedy arrived shortly thereafter with two basket brimming with clothes. She noticed both darks and whites and sighed as she couldn’t do them all in one load. She put the baby in his high chair and ran down the basement steps and threw in the first load. Once again,  Baby Eddie was pitching cheerios on to the floor, laughing as each one fell to the ground. Now, how could she be upset with that child when he was laughing so hard? She began to clean up her kitchen before her friends arrived. When she heard the door bell ring, she realized that she missed the washer buzzer but more than that had not gotten around to changing her clothes that were sticky with baby stuff. Super Mom was about to be exposed. Her friends laughed about it and all the kids were having a great time. She remembered about the washer just about time to prepare snacks for the group. She once again ran down the basement stairs and threw the clothes into her beloved dryer and started the second load in the washer. She decided to tell her friends about her arrangement, maybe they would help her and they did. When Speedy arrived at three o’clock, the clothes were washed, dried and neatly folded…thanks to her friends.
It seemed like every two days, Speedy would bring over at least a basket of laundry. Annie thought, I bet the lady at The Wishy Washy is feeling awfully poor this month, no wonder she drives a great big old Buick. Who in the world wears this many clothes or uses so many towels in a week? They must change their underwear at least two or three times a day. My laundry is piled up beyond my imagination and I am not sure when I am going to have time to do it. This is not how I thought it would be and now I am stuck doing their wash forever.  Maybe I’ll call Sears & Roebuck’s and tell them to come get the dryer.
The crowning blow was the following Monday when Speedy arrived with Jack’s brother’s football uniform. It smelled so bad that Annie decided she had to put it in the washer immediately. She had never washed a football uniform and Speedy gave her no instructions, so she threw it in just as it was given to her, pads and all (actually she thought those pads were just part of the uniform. How was she to know?). When the buzzer went off, it went straight into the dryer and Annie went about her day. When the dryer was done, she noticed it was still a little damp so she added another fifteen minutes to the dryer. When it finally came out, it looked a little distorted, but she had never seen a football uniform except on the players. Jack’s brother was coming to pick it up after football practice. When Jack arrived home, he noticed the uniform in the laundry basket sitting in the hallway. “Annie, what in the world did you do to Britt’s uniform?” he asked.
“Well, nothing but wash it and dry it like your Mother asked me to.”
“Did you leave all the pads in when you did it?”
“What pads? It has pads?”
“What world do you live in, haven’t you ever seen a football uniform before?”
“Only on you when you played for the Citadel.”
“Annie, the pads come out.”
“Well, how am I suppose to know that? I have one sister and she never played football. Someone could have warned me. Your Mother never said a word.”
Jack pulled the uniform out of the laundry basket and the pads were all deformed and melted. He began to laugh. “I can’t wait for Britt and Daddy to see this.”
Annie began to cry, then Cindy began to cry, and the baby began to cry.
“What did I do?’ he asked. “Annie, don’t cry, it’s fixable. Britt can get new pads, but I’m afraid it’s going to come out of your laundry money.” He laughed again.
Annie’s Wishy Washy became a chore. Her family’s laundry was never done until after three o’clock and even Jack was beginning to feel the strain. She had been doing this job for about three months and it was almost Christmas. She thought, “I’ll be washing and drying clothes on Christmas day, I just know it. If it isn’t his Mother’s, it’ll be ours. I feel like we never have clean clothes any more, just baskets and baskets of dirty ones. I am beginning to hate that dryer.  I’ll just go out in the freezing cold and hang those clothes on the line, probably get pneumonia and die.”
Several days before Christmas, Jack came home with a big box beautifully wrapped and tied with a big red bow. That night, he told Annie she could open her gift. She was so excited and had imagined all kinds of things that could be in that box. She tore open the wrapping paper and unwrapped the box. Inside she found a pink laundry basket. She almost threw up. Was this some kind of a sick joke?  
Jack had written on the basket, “Annie’s Wishy Washy”. In her disappointment, she smiled and thanked him. He said, “Did you see the envelope taped to the bottom of the basket?”
She quckly turned it upside down and found the envelope and opened it.
Inside, she found a bill of sale for the dryer. Jack had paid it off. She no longer had to do his Mother’s laundry. She ran to the telephone and called her.
“You will have to take your clothes to the Wishy Washy from now on, I just got the most wonderful gift, a paid for dryer. Annie’s Wishy Washy is out of business.”
She hugged her husband and thanked him for the most wonderful gift that she could ever ask for. She had learned a lesson and I wish I could tell you that she never campaigned for anything else or thought up similar schemes but her brain wasn’t made like that. It would go on many campaigns, some good and some bad but all memorable. Years later when her son played football, she remembered to remove the pads before washing it. She was so proud of her knowledge.

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