Lucy Stomping Grapes: An Inspiration

15 Feb

This is a famous episode of “I Love Lucy” from the 1950s TV series. It reminds me of a time in the early 1980s, when I was living in a small, one bedroom “cluster home” in Lafayette, California, which did not have a communal laundry facility like other apartment buildings. The dilapidated little cottage did have hookups for a washer, and a clothes line out in the backyard, but I had no money to buy a machine: I was still in college, and a single parent to boot.

There was a laundromat in town in those days, but it was eight or nine blocks away, and I didn’t have a car. But I still had to do my laundry– not just for me, but also for my four-year-old son. And four-year-old boys make a lot of dirty clothes!

I started out by washing everything by hand in the bathtub, but that was incredibly time-consuming. Then I hit upon what I thought of as “The Lucy Solution.”

I put all the dirty clothes in the bathtub at once, turned on the taps, then added the detergent until it got nice and foamy. Then, with clean, bare feet, I stood in the tub and stomped and swished around the clothes until they were passably clean, just like Lucy stomping the grapes. Afterward, when it was time to rinse the clothes, I would let out the sudsy water, put in clean water, and do the same thing.

When they were clean enough, I would carry the sopping wet clothes outside and hang them on the clothes line. I enlisted the aid of my small son with hanging the clothes; I set up a chair from the dinette under the line for him to stand on, and then I pinned clothes pins all over his little shirt, so he could more easily reach the pins, and pinned them all over my shirt too. I told him we were playing “The Porcupine Game.”

I lived in the little cottage for two years, until I graduated from college. When I had lived there for about eight or nine months, my two older, employed sisters pitched in to buy me a washing machine.

But I still had to use the clothes line outside and my son and I still played “The Porcupine Game.”

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