Simpson. Mama doesn’t eat for a week so she can pay off the new washing machine. She feeds the wet clothes through the wringer. They go through the rollers, fat and sudsy, come out flat to land into a concrete tub of water. I hardly know this skinny new Mama standing in high heels in charge of a washing machine.
Champion. Christchurch. The lever on the side doesn’t work. My sister gives the washing machine a kick. Bingo! cries the baby. She stands on a chair, watching the clothes go round and round. When her arm gets caught in the wringer the rubber rollers pull her in right up to her neck. I run to the neighbours for help. ‘Is your mother out again?’ Mrs Flynn says.
Beattie. With spin dry. Student flat. The machine shudders violently in the downstairs room. It has never been the same since the fire. The floor pools with stagnant water; the risk of electrocution. I ring Mama. ‘Wear rubber soled shoes when you do the washing,’ she says. ‘Promise me you’ll always wear rubber soles.’
Bath. Enamel. My boyfriend sings in the bath, wet clothes draped over his legs. We come on the sloop John B. my grandfather and me, around Nassua town we did roam… When he’s finished scrubbing he opens the window. Hurls the sudsy clothes out onto the lawn. Later he’ll appear around the side of the house, carrying a hose. Much later he’ll get drunk and pass out in the bath.
Arms that are also washing machines. We live in a plywood hut surrounded by scrubby bush. There is no power and for a while, no running water. My sister and I use the river, squatting on the stones, soap slipping, the toddler’s nappies blooming white in the rushing water. While we laugh, the wekas steal our soap.
Kent Worthington. Tasman. The washing machine stands in a small store room behind the kitchen. A wicker bassinette sits on the bench. The machine slaps back and forth. On top of the clothes is a rat. Round and round sails the small animal on its hind legs. No one knows what to do. (I can’t kill a rat because I’m pregnant.)
Copper boiler. The commune overlooks the paddock. A copper boiler with fire grate below. Two rough concrete tubs beside it, one mounted with a hand wringer. There is a long stick. I stir the boiling water, the drenched tangle of clothes. I look out over the paddock. There will be no baby clothes in this load.
Out sourced Laundry. Sydney hospice. The first Aids patients arrive. At first no one knows for sure how the disease is spread. I am dressed in a gown, plastic apron, mask and white gumboots. I strip the bed, put the dirty linen in blue bags. The man, sitting patiently in his pyjamas asks for a doctor. They are not on site, I have to tell him. Like the laundry I want to say, but don’t.
The -bike -powered -washing machine A pulley system is attached to the back wheel of a mounted bicycle. I grate Sunlight soap into the washing machine bowl. Then I pedal hard and the agitator in the washing machine moves sluggishly, back and forth, back and forth. When I have been biking for 5 mins I ring the bell. My partner comes out, hands me the new baby, takes his turn on the bike. We have not yet quarrelled. He has not yet fallen in love with someone else. I have not yet tied him to the bike powered washing machine, told him, he cannot leave.
The bike powered washing machine with more comfortable seat
This is daft,’ Mama says. ‘Just daft.’ When no one is looking she climbs up on the bike, does a pedal or two then gets down again.
Beattie, powered by Generator A Briggs and Stratton motor. The heavy beat of the generator reverberates through the bush. Swarms of excited cicadas fly in, attracted by the prospect of a mate. I pick their golden bodies from the soapy water.
At night my son cries. His school shorts are never white. Not white like the other kids shorts are. He says the washing machine is dumb and living in the bush is dumb.
Fisher and Paykel. Front loader Overhead a dryer. I ring Mama, offer to do her washing. She says her washing machine is faster than mine. That night I dream of my grandma. Here she is, talking to her neighbour over the fence. ‘My copper is very good,’ she says. ‘I can get it to boil in half the time it takes yours…’
Fisher and Paykel . Quick Smart. Energy rating 3 I am renovating the bush house. The washing machine washes and spin dries with ease. I hang the damp sheets on the line, strung between two trees. Prop it up high with a manuka stick to catch the wind. The sheets lift and billow over the lawn. When I look again the line is full of little children’s clothes. I hardly know myself, nappies fluttering over the ferns.