Though I currently live on the island of Montserrat, my first destination after I left New York (where I spent most of my life) was Antigua, the island of my birth. Shortly after I got there, I was met with a conundrum: laundromats were not on almost every street corner like the Harlem neighborhood I had moved from. Rather worse, the home that I was staying in did not have a washing machine.
I was running out of clean clothes to wear fast. The clothes had to get washed somehow, so I had to resort to an alternative method, one not unfamiliar to many of my fellow islanders, though one that I was not used to in the least… Enter: hand washing. Have mercy!
The hand washing experience was very different than what I knew – I was definitely not in New York anymore. I swapped my big laundry bag for a small plastic bag. Instead of walking to the laundromat in Harlem, I walked down the hall, through the living room and kitchen, to the side yard door. Instead of popping the clothes into a washing machine, I popped them in a large plastic tub. As my pants, tops, skirts, dresses, and even a pillow case soaked in 3 gallons of water with the powder detergent, I would sit and eat my breakfast, which on some mornings would consist of saltfish cakes and banana pancakes. I pondered on this new island life adventure I had embarked on. Was I prepared? I had thought I was but this hand washing business was throwing me… this was a pretty big deal in my world.
Hand washing these items in NY would have been an excerpt from a bad dream. I would never have even attempted it. However, since the house I was staying in did not have a washing machine, and the fact that the island consisted of approximately three laundromats (none that were nearby), and the fact that I was in the business of using as little $$$ as possible, I decided, What the heck, let’s do it!
Aside from the main black tub for washing, I had a bucket for soaking and a small blue tub that contained my fabric softener. I would knead the clothing between my hands, which always managed to lift up some loose skin in a hurry. “Ohhhh my poor hands!” was my laundry cry, each and every wash. Once scrubbed, I would then transfer the clothes to the soaking bucket. After they had soaked for about ten minutes, I would then transfer them to the bucket that contained the fabric softener for a few more minutes of soaking. Afterwards, I would squeeze out the excess water and hang them on the line. Having finished my part, I’d leave the Antiguan sun and breeze to complete the procedure.
Hand washing your laundry is not an easy task, especially on your body. Not only had the process caused soreness in my wrist area because of all the kneading, but the bottoms and sides of my Fit Flops (remember those) were totally covered in mud from the yard each time. Getting your laundry clean sure is a dirty process. That first time took me two hours to finish and left me exhausted. Though all in all, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and besides the clean clothes, I was also left with an air of accomplishment.
That first hand washing experience was eight years ago and since then, I have had to hand wash many more loads. Unless you have a hat on, or you are washing in the shade, the hot sun that burns a hole in your scalp remains the same, however, it doesn’t take me as long anymore. Heck, my most recent washing machine was only bought a few weeks ago. What do you think I was doing before I bought it? You guessed it – hand washing.
I now know that if I was ever trapped on a deserted island, at least I would have clean clothes.
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Have you ever embarked on your own hand washing adventures on a rock?