Last night it snowed four or five inches, and some sort of sleet-rain-snow gunk is continuing to precipitate this morning. It is not an ideal morning to lug a household's worth of laundry to the laundromat, but what kind of doting mother sends her son back to college with a suitcase full of dirty clothes?
Tomorrow both boys return to school, and I go to the appliance store and buy a new washing machine. The last time I bought a washing machine, the year was 1991, Tom and I were newlyweds in a duplex in Seekonk, Massachusetts, and the Simpsons were the latest TV novelty. Certainly that cheesy, bottom-of-the-line, apartment-sized Kenmore has done its duty by our family--calmly churning through a thousand pounds of filthy cloth diapers and cow-stained work clothes, breasting the waves of several basement floods and a massively clogged floor drain.
For years, when anything went wrong with the washing machine, I called Dick, who lives down the road. Dick was a wiry little man who looked to be about 60 but was really closer to 80. After studying the breakdown du jour, Dick always sighed and predicted failure. Then he fiddled around with it for 20 minutes, went out to his truck for a piece of wire, and fixed it. The downside to Dick was that he kept trying to Bring Me to Jesus while he was standing around in the kitchen waiting to get paid. This was a pretty big downside. It was, however, balanced by the fact that he was only charging me 12 dollars.
Unfortunately, the last time I called Dick, he was so feeble that he almost pitched headfirst down the cellar stairs. Then, in the middle of his fiddling, his wife telephoned to say she'd fallen out of her wheelchair. Dick fluttered off in a panic, leaving the Kenmore in pieces on the basement floor, as Tom and I waved 20-dollar bills in distress. "Dick, what do we owe you? Take something!" It was all very sad.
Tom did manage to patch up the machine that time; but even with the enthusiastic tinkering aid of our son, this week's breakdown was beyond him. "Something's busted in the gearbox," he speculated, and then the two of them clumped upstairs to drink more coffee and forget about it.
Thus, death has finally come to the washing machine. She has had a long and active career, despite rust and ugliness, and the basement will not see her like again.