I have fond memories of the mangle… and the peggy tub and posser… helping my great grandmother feed the sodden clothes through the heavy rollers on washday and seeing them come out as flattened and hard lumps of cloth. I must have been very small at the time. My own first washing machine after my marriage also had a mangle… but that one was electric, and almost museum-worthy even then! They didn’t do synthetics or knitwear much good, but they were brilliant for cottons and linens.
My mother used to have a little table top mangle when I was small. We lived in married quarters, the top flat of a big old house on Tunbridge Road when my father stationed in Maidstone. I recall the place vividly, small though I was. My bedroom was tiny, the bed in an alcove and the walls covered in Disney cartoons my mother had painted. The kitchen at the top of the stairs also served as the bathroom, with the bath tucked away in one corner, with a big, hinged lid. My mother still tells of how I tried to bathe the kitten and the inevitable mayhem that resulted when I wanted to put it, tail first, through the rollers of the mangle… I do not recall this incident myself… I do recall Mum in the bath eating radishes for some reason…
I remember, too, my mother rowing me down the Medway and feeding the swans there. And one Christmas party on the base that was given for the servicemen’s children. I remember too searching the garden for Archibald Henry when he disappeared and my grief when the tortoise could not be found. He had gone AWOL. That was probably my first taste of the emotional mangle.
That mangle, of course, gets all of us at some point.
Life has a way of dropping bombshells every so often… large ones and seemingly small, that upheave our emotions and stability and shake our worlds. Things build up within us over time, besmirched, mired by life and habit, and though being plunged in the dolly tub and pummelled by the posser may not be pleasant, it does get things pretty effectively cleaned up. The mangle still lies in wait and every so often I know I will go through it again. But I also know I will emerge, well wrung, at the other side and, like the laundry, just need time to air before I will be fresh and ready for use again. Even though I may still need to be run over with a hot iron to smooth me back into shape.
We do not launder our linens in order to torture them but to care for them and so that they can be useful for longer… but our care is greater for the things we treasure, that hold meaning and beauty for us. Life, I think, has a lot in common with laundry. Not in spite of the life we have known but because of it, we are who we are. Not a thing could be changed from our past for us to be who we are now. And at the end of the process, we will neither be more, nor less, ourselves. The fabric of our lives may show the odd stain or moth-hole, a patch of darning or a bit of fraying round the edges. But we will remain. Clean, pressed and fit for Purpose.