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The Washboard

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I remember so well my mother
Washing our clothes on her washboard
She had an old wooden one for many years
And was delighted to be given a new one.
The new one had glass ridges down it,
I remember her propping it
In the old square sink
Which was also only new –
Before that she would kneel on the floor
Washing the clothes in the old tin bath.
God Bless her, my mom,
With the garment spread across
That glass washboard
She would rub the sunlight soap into it,
Then she would squash the garment
Into her clenched fist
And scrub up and down.
How I wish I had had that washboard
A few weeks ago,
It was my son’s turn
To bring home the kit for washing.
The football team he plays for had
Recently received the brand new kit,
It’s nearly all white
With an odd blue patch.
Into the modern washing machine
I threw the muddy jerseys
And set it at the recommended 40°.
When it was finished
I rushed it out to the line to dry
Before the rain started again.
As I hung them up
I was surprised to see
The muddy patches still on the kit –
Not even slightly faded.
Into the 40° wash again,
And again and again.
Four washes and still the muddy stains
Laughed into my face.
I threw at least eight of them
Into a bucket of warm soapy water.
After some hours soaking I looked –
The automatic powder
Had done little to remove the dirt.
Down on my knees I went
And scrubbed and scrubbed.
No glass washboard for me,
Just my bare knuckles,
As I noted that the dirt was fading
I scrubbed even harder.
I ignored the red marks fast appearing
On my bare knuckles
And the stinging of my skin.
At least the kit was clean
As for my poor knuckles,
They were red raw, less their skin.
Wasn’t I the fool in my haste
To use the automatic powder -
But then I did not know
That whilst the washboard
May not still be around
Sunlight soap is still sold
In some local supermarkets.
Skinned knuckles, stinging pain,
But from such an incident -
Came flowing back -
Memories of a mother
Who scrubbed our clothes
On her glass washboard
As well as doing so much more in a time
When there was no complaining,
Moaning, or groaning
At the daily workload
A mother had to do!

T A Keane