Mother wasn’t a saint but she hovered in that vicinity. Even if, in my early years, I misunderstood how to behave prior to her morning cup of black Maxwell House coffee and a Camel cigarette.
There were four of us children growing up. I have three younger sisters, all wonderful people, by the way. Our father could be difficult, and mother, as I said, was remarkable.
And we all made plenty of dirty clothes for the wash.
I was a genuine dirtball. We lived in the heart of central Pennsylvania soft coal country. Most everyone heated with coal. We used coal and I helped my father every chance I got. Dad’s business involved time in the mines — below ground, above ground and throughout the central Appalachians. We did explosive jobs that helped access coal. Also, many construction projects required blasting. Dirty work, to say the least.
I was also a jock and two of my three sisters were cheerleaders. Ginny, our middle sister, was an animal acquisition queen, with limitless enthusiasm. There was tons of laundry for Mother.
Often, in the morning before we got up, mother would have a couple loads of wash already done. It seemed the washing machine never stopped. We didn't get dirty intentionally.
Mother wasn't an environmentalist, bent on saving the world from overuse of natural resources, but, she rarely missed a chance to dry laundry outside on the clothesline. Believe it or not, I think it was almost a meditative experience for her. She could often be found somewhere along the 100-foot line that stretched from the corner of our house to the barn, singing a new Keely Smith tune and smoking a Camel. Breezes would float the sheets and pillowcases, socks and underwear along the line as she would pluck new handfuls of clothespins from a sliding sack. She loved the smell of air dried laundry — “crisp and fresh” she called it. Even in the cold of winter, mother would hang out laundry, stiff frozen as it would become. It got her out of the house, and into a scene of her own.
We miss Mother.