tonight i’m strutting around with the Mick Jagger rooster walk

The washer’s been broke since Monday. The kids need bookshelves and a desk (their room is a sad little pile of books on the floor, fer realz) and now Ralph is worried we can’t do that because we’ve gotta do this other thing.

One problem, three sets of solutions:

Ralph’s solution is to go online and look up kits and DIY methodology for our errant Maytag. What’s the model number of the machine? Any diagrams? Where can I order kits and for cheap shipping? Many forums exist, many inexpensive kits, but one has to open the washer to see what the problem is…  The washer’s half-full of water which might make a mess. Ralph is balls-deep busy at work, busy enough he’s tired when he gets home (rare for my very energetic husband), and we need to be able to wash our clothes…

My mom’s solution (while I use her laundry facilities in the interim) is to offer her Sears card. She tells me happily we can go in and get a Brand New washer and just pay her off $100 a month, meaning this generous lady would carry whatever interest is charged and provide us with something nice and immediate and delivered-to-our-home.  I thank her for the offer. But:

I have my own solution. Yesterday I walk with the kids down through my childhood neighborhoods (carrying a wrapped coconut flour/zucchini/banana loaf, seriously tasty and full of nutrition, to drop at a friend’s) down to where Retired Maytag Man is, a man I’ve know most my life, he and his wife, dear friends and neighbors and community leaders. Retired Maytag Man is jovial and now quite pot-bellied, a cheerful clear voice and suspenders and a 50’s-fashionable coiffure and quick, calm speech from years of hard-working competence in his field. I used to help him do inventory at his hardware store every end-of-year and would get paid with a couple hundred dollar bills, a delightful ritual on New Years’ Night, and one year while there I remember answering the shop phone and nearly dropping the handset from pain as the volume on the device had been turned up preternaturally loud to compensate for his hard-of-hearing, a little story that makes me smile, the hardware store is long-gone now.

Within a few hours not only has the Retired Maytag Man looked at our washer and leaned against it while draining it effortlessly, he’s also given us a run-down of washer technology when we bought the machine and advised us not to put more money into it, told us we got more years than we might have expected, offered an older but better machine, a gift, gratis. Wow! Retired Maytag Man goes back to his football game to wait for Ralph and I send my husband over with $20 to ask for the neighbor boy’s help (the one next door, not that one, this one, he’s strong, he’s a good kid) and the boy isn’t home so instead the father helps Ralph, including this rather impressive washer-dolly borrowed from Retired Maytag Man and with a minimum of physical effort (especially on my part) we have the washer, and it’s just the same model but not avocado green that the Retired Maytag Man remembers from my own childhood, and he and I talk about my dad just a little bit, and I think how blessed I am to know such people, and the broken washer is on my deck where we will haul it to donate for refurbishment at the used appliance shop.

Ladies, I hope you’re reading. Not a week goes by I don’t get an email or a comment or a query, at-home parents (women) who feel they should go back to paid employment because in some way they don’t contribute to the Bottom Line, and it’s fine, work or whatever, but don’t kid yourself that while in the home you aren’t doing your Part even if that’s what so many people want to put forth. It’s not that I exactly knew Retired Maytag Man would gift us with a washer – that was a pleasant surprise and we are incredibly grateful – but I knew he’d have the exact expertise Ralph and I would want (to repair or not to repair? To buy and what to buy if so?), given especially we like to use old things, to fix and re-fix, not so much the brand new. And part of all this, truly, is the bread I bake and send to the neighbors and the conversations I have on front lawns while out with my children and the grocery store chats and the recipes traded. These are investments as well as being the joyous rhythms of our lives, the two are inseparable.

Because me? I got a good sturdy Maytag washing machine that is besides awesome also fucking adorable.

& I paid with a jar of refrigerator pickles.

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Seriously though? The more relevant moral of the story is: Retired Maytag Man and his wife are amazing, wonderful people, and this was a lovely, lovely gift.

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