Monday, July 06, 2009

soap opera



Every time I see another lovely, forgotten lavoir (communal washing place) here in rural France I can't help but wonder if there was a time when women might possibly have looked forward to laundry day simply because it offered a chance to get together with the girls and chat.

These places ooze history. Walking into them, I feel as if I'm entering a museum or cathedral. A place of worship. A place to worship women and mothers.

Oh how I would love to go back in time and sit in a cool, shady corner of one of these gorgeous structures -- listening to the trickling water, the rubbing of fabric against stone, and the running mouths of women.

And where were the children? Strapped to their backs? Lying in baskets in the shade? Splashing about in the waste water?

I hear so much about how vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and washing machines have served to liberate women-- shaving hours off our workday-- yet I when I see the lavoirs, I have to wonder: What exactly are we doing with that free time and how come I still feel so disconnected?

Why is it that I am at my worst when doing laundry or pushing a vacuum around my house? It's the isolation of the task. It's the reality of tedium. It's the imagining that everyone else in the world is doing something more interesting, more worthwhile, than I am that very moment in time.

While communal housecleaning isn't really an option, getting together to do laundry could be the solution. Book clubs be damned. Perhaps it's time for me to find a laundromat?

"As running water and modern appliances became standard in French homes after World War II, the lavoirs were abandoned, and with them three hundred years of women’s gathering and conversation."

From a description of the book, Lavoirs: Washouses of Rural France, by Mireille Roddier.

Anyhow............. none of this makes a lick of difference when it comes to getting my kids to bed before midnight.

11 comments:

Daria said...

Great post - I totally get it. I went to an annual convention for the first time and drove with a fellow member of the club who I didn't know, but chatted with nonstop for our hour-plus drive and time flew by. I had more fun getting to know her than the actual convention. The next year when I sadly drove by myself, I had the worst time. Bored stiff and lonely. There is definitely something to female companionship -our bonding and relating. We need it as women and we are so lucky when we have that.

Kestrel said...

I visited Guatemala a few years ago and still remember the women in the village getting together to do laundry. It looked like so much fun, everyone was laughing and happy. I was amazed that anyone could be happy while hand-washing their laundry, honestly, but I guess if you have company to distract you then it's all good.

Steph said...

Today my husband took the kids out to the doughnut shop and I took the opportunity to vacuum the playroom and scrub the sticky floor. While I wanted to be glad for the time to complete the task, I really just felt isolated (and a little put upon). At least they brought home a treat for me.

This is all to say I really get this post.

Betsy said...

So glad you all get it. I often hear of women who enjoy cleaning, enjoy the immediate gratification, the visible results of their efforts, yet I can't help but dwell on the fact that I will be doing it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day...

Betsy said...

Kestrel: I love your blog. I especially loved the "yearning" post. How perfect is that?
I cannot seem to comment. Not sure if you want comments but, if you do, the settings are not allowing it.

I like knowing you are drawn to England. I am as well. Here we are in France, my home is in Vermont, and I keep telling my hubby, a Brit, that I'm homesick for England. Go figure.

mooserbeans said...

I have always loved the idea of being around other women doing everyday chores. I used to want to live in a duplex with my best freind for that reason. That's prob why I blog and read other's blog. It's the closest I get to chatting with the "girls." Maybe I should try a laundry party?

Emma said...

That was such an interesting post. I'd never heard of these communal washing places before. I understand completely what you mean. Being a house wife you do all those chores knowing that you are going to do the same thing again and again. Somone asked me if I was on Twitter- I can just imagine how fascinating that would be! "I'm hanging out the washing!" "I'm folding the washing!" "I'm sorting the washing." You get the idea ;)

Evenspor said...

It's about balancing housework with kids too, isn't it? This way, the kids are all playing together while the moms wash. Like playgroup, but the moms all have something to do with their hands. Something productive.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I can imagine that spending enough time in one, you would be able to hear the murmurs and chatter yourself.

Mama Badger said...

I love this idea! One of the worst things about chores is that I get so lonely. The one thing I do regularly is wash dishes, because I can be in the same room as PB and LG to get them done! I'm betting this was also a time when they shared advice and sympathy, too.

Our family has a ritual that when one of us moves, we all go to the new place and do the first cleaning together before the actual "stuff" arrives. People think it's weird to invite your family over to do housework, but it's so much fun! And it makes it go faster.

Kingsmom said...

Loved this post. If you haven't already, read the book The Red Tent. It's along the same lines.