Monday, July 06, 2009
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.