Who would ever think doing laundry by hand could be fun?
The dirt here is a deeper red than Georgia or the rocks of Sedona. We get so dirty by the end of the day it doesn’t matter how awkward the shower might be there’s no way we’re getting into bed sticky and dirty. Clothes can’t be worn twice so the laundry piles up fast. I looked at my boys with my mama eye and reminded them that I will not do their laundry they better learn to do it. A big pile grew until I scheduled a laundry lesson given by our Ugandan kids. Since Christopher will be staying here for a few months, he really needs to know how to do laundry.
I’m supposing the American plan would be that each person takes care of his or her own clothes. That’s considered absurd here. Our family of 18 makes a pile of clothes each day. One pile. Everyone participates in getting them clean and hung on the line. So we joined the laundry party yesterday and never could have imagined we were going to enjoy some of the best fun of our lives.
Everyone helped carry the laundry, the washing basins, and the jerricans down the hill to the well. We are so near to the airport we can see planes flying over head and I can hear the boys proclaim what a good pilot they will be when they are grown.
The laundry is dumped on the ground. Kids collect water. Two basins are set up for sudsing and two for rinsing. Each time a piece of clothing changes bins it must be wrung and twisted. Everyone crowds in with their bottoms high in the air, or they go into a deep squat. Phiona informs me that both positions are good or relieving the stomach of it’s contents. (she’s hilarious) It is good to have flexible hamstrings and a strong back for this job. There are many hands working vigorously in each basin. At the end of the washing line little ones are ready to run the clean clothes over to the person laying them flat on the grass to take in the sun. The clothes are turned inside out on this run so the outside is not soiled again.
Jjajja Gloria was happily doing her part laying the clothes flat to dry. The mzungus got their hands into the suds and worked til the dirty pile was gone. The joking and chatter that occurs there is silly. Angela gave all of us lessons on how to properly pronounce English in Uganda but it was heavy with accent and so ridiculous. Everyone repeated after her. The littler children kept an eye on the water and without being asked would go down to the well and fetch more. Others like Lawrence and Lydia played with Rhonah. They like to carry her as if she’s not able to walk. It didn’t take long before she had enough of that. She fussed to be put down, picked up a stick and went after Lawrence with it to beat him off. We all agreed she’s feeling better. (We had her malaria tested on Sunday and she was free from it.)
When the work was nearly finished children began to climb the trees. A herd of cows were brought down the hill by their shepherd to drink from the water. One of them was bucking and running crazy. It made all of us get out of the way, except Desire. He was making clay and forming sculptures and didn’t mind a bit that the cows ran around him.
It is muddy by the well and Kira is prissy. I followed behind her and some of the littler boys. Without a prompt or thought Desire scooped up Princess Kira in his arms like he was going to carry her over the threshold and he carried her past the mud then set her down gently. When her shoes were muddy and it made her cry Lawrence took them down to the well and scrubbed them for her. Then he rinsed her legs and helped her fit them on nice and clean again. I’m sorry to say she did not help wash this time but when she’s a little bigger she’ll have her hands in the suds and join the laughter.
I sat and took in the scene and wondered how could it be that me, a regular person who lives in Texas, could feel so at home here in Africa enjoying my own blended family created by God. This is what happiness feels like.
When it was finished and we were feeling the hunger pains knowing Auntie Julie was setting out lunch we carried the clean loads up the hill for lunch. Yum. Donny entertained us by putting a basket of laundry on his head and switching his behind like a lady. Phiona demonstrated her skill by dancing up the hill while carrying a huge heavy load of laundry on her head. Yes, it was a very good time. I can’t say putting laundry in a round hole and pushing buttons is as much fun.