Friday, February 23, 2007

New Toys

Today is a momentous day in our house. Mark the calendar, Feb, 23, 2007, the day we got a new washer and dryer. And that’s not all, with the delightful purchasing power of my Dad’s credit union check book, we went for a trifecta and bought a dishwasher too.

What’s so special about new appliances? I’m sure that every day someone goes into Lowes armed with the Sunday sales papers ready to do business. Even when the TV ads use the deceptive make-them-feel-sorry-and-they-will-come ads about the lonely Maytag repairman, I bet people buy Maytag washers all the time. What makes our purchases so extraordinary is that the washer and dryer had given us almost 20 years to the day dedicated and loyal service. TWENTY YEARS?! I don’t have the receipt to prove it, but I’m pretty sure the dishwasher was less efficient, with only seven or eight years to its credit. But in an age where manufacturers expect us to throw products away instead of repairing them, I think seven years is still a pretty good run.

I didn’t even realize the washing machine was on its last leg. Except for the anticipatory thrill I get every time I think about the initial load of whites, I feel a little sad about having to say goodbye to what I’ve recently discovered was a trustworthy friend. I can’t help but think back over the last 20 years and all that’s happened, in the world, in my family, and even in the garage where those work horses were employed day in and day out. I wonder what stories they could tell.

While killing time in an antique store one day, I passed by a long, pine plank dining table. It had the look and feel to it of something that might have been at the first Thanksgiving. I know it wasn’t that old, but standing in its presence I had an almost spiritual connection to the table. I wanted to run my hands over the wood and try to make sense out of the water marks, or better yet, check for carved initials. Think of the stories that table could tell – tales of family meals, birthday celebrations and festive holiday repasts. Think of the people who must have come on and gone, eaten a solitary bowl of oatmeal or candlelit, romantic fare. Think of the emotions shared – tears, laughter, generational arguments, political discussions, homecomings and farewells. Ahh, if only those wood planks could talk. I feel the same way about the washer and dryer that now, sadly, are on their way to some metal garbage dump, their stories silenced forever.

As I sit here writing, I’m trying to imagine how my mother might have felt on the day her new appliances, the one's I just gave away, were delivered. I know from experience, nothing new comes easily in this house. I’m sure her new washer and dryer were purchased only after my father, a spry 70-year old retired public works officer, whose hands didn’t shake so could still fix just about anything, had tinkered and duct taped the old ones into their last ounce of service. Who could have known then that these two appliances would provide the remnants of my mom’s daily chores after she was laid low by a stroke. She couldn’t talk much, and she no longer participated in many of the household tasks that she had perfected over the years, but when it came to doing laundry, even after her illness, my mom never missed a beat. Unlike me, who can leave clothes in the dryer long after the permanent pressed articles are permanently wrinkled, my mom had some kind of 6th sense when it came to knowing when the clothes had taken their last tumble. She was there with the laundry basket before the fabric softener sheet had settled to the bottom of the drum.

Over the twenty year life span of a Whirlpool washing machine one can only imagine the number of loads it washed, rinsed, and spun. Baby clothes, underwear, delicates, sweaters, jeans, and church dresses. Sheets and comforters, dish towels, bath towels, pool towels and beach towels. Things that had been spilled on, puked on, and peed in. All I can say is thank God for the person who invented the machine(s) that can do so much and ask for so little in return.

Yes, this is a momentous day. And the new appliances await their Christening. I think I shall go sprinkle them with a bit water and bleach and ask the God of unsung heroes and unnamed friends to bless the work to which they are about to begin. Long may they live.

Merry ME

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