Eight years later, when we ourselves moved out of that same house, I was very happy to leave the blue shag rug behind. And I was happy to take the washing machine and dryer with us. In the first house, they were tucked into a tiny half-bathroom, but in our big new house, they had their own room, with shelves and cabinets and a built-in ironing board. And when, after what was coincidentally the same interval of time again – eight more years – we downsized into a medium-sized house, the washer and dryer again accompanied us.
Today, though, we said goodbye. It was time. I don’t know how old they were, but assuming they were at least a year old when we moved into our first house, they were well over 20. And the last few years had been hard on them. The washing machine went through a long phase when it would come to a dead stop between the filling cycle and the agitating cycle, and wouldn’t start up again until its door was open and shut in a very specific way. No one else in my family bothered to figure this out; only I knew how to get the washing machine to run, and for some reason that made me feel somewhat honored and indispensable. Knowing exactly how to open and close the stubborn washing machine in order to get it to resume its cycle reminded me a little bit of being the only one who could soothe a crying baby during the night, or comfort a toddler as a vaccination was administered.
And not long after the washing machine became persnickety, the dryer began showing its age as well. Sometimes it would dry the clothes normally, but other times the heating component would fail to activate. It began to take more and more cycles to get the clothes dry. I turned the dial to one hour-long cycle after another, hoping each time that this would be one of the times it decided to heat the clothes as well as tumble them. I began allotting at least three hours to dry a load of laundry, then eventually more like three days. Once, after it had been functioning poorly for weeks, we went on vacation; when we came home ten days later, it worked beautifully, making me think it just needed a good long rest.
But then it stopped heating up altogether. Like any loyal mother, I made excuses for it. “It just needs extra time,” I told the rest of my family. “We need to be patient with it.”
“Just be sure to tell me several days in advance when you’re going to really need your baseball uniform ready,” I told my son Tim. “Three days should surely be enough to get your clothes dry.” “Mom, three days is the same amount of time it would take for the clothes to dry if you put them in the dryer and didn’t turn it on at all,” he pointed out logically. Right. The old “That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee” argument.
Last month, our electricity company raised its rates significantly, and it occurred to me that we were probably spending a lot of money running our nonfunctional dryer over and over again. But I kept the thought to myself out of loyalty and the persistent belief that with just a little more rest and coddling, it would return to its old self. Then I went away for the long weekend. On Sunday evening my husband sent me a text. “Here’s your Valentine’s Day present!” it said above an image of a shining, state-of-the-art washer and dryer.
Earlier today, while I was at work, a delivery truck brought them. A crew installed them and hauled away the older iterations. I can’t pretend to feel truly sentimental about this. I hung on for as long as I could, but the thought of clothes that dry in one hour instead of three days is irresistible, and besides, I suspect that people were just too polite to tell us that we were all starting to smell a little moldy, as we went around in clothes that had never quite lost their core of dampness.
Out with the old; in with the new. It’s a new day in the laundry department. I’m happy about it. But my attachment to the old appliances was nice too, a thread linking us back to our very first home and our second year of marriage. Here’s to hard-working old appliances, and the undeniable vein of sentimentality that keeps me attached to them for what is sometimes far too long.