Story of Laundry by Mountain Creek
Laundry was typically done by a mountain creek, and could occur anytime during the day. There’re no laundry shops so each household was expected to have laundry taken care of by themselves. This was almost exclusively done by women (just my statistics). How did bachelors take care of laundry is beyond me. But then again, villagers married early. Plus, divorce was unheard of at that time.
When I was little, I would follow my “special grandma” to the mountain creek for laundry. Crossing a tiny stone bridge, which was really just a set of parallel, rough stone blocks joining opposite creek banks, we arrived at the creek bank. Going down a series of steps we found ourselves a spot on one of the stone blocks extending into the creek, perpendicular to the water flow. Stone blocks were joined together by cement, making the entire stone layout looking like a mini dock, well before I knew what a dock looked like.
Often we met other village women laboring at the same chore, so it was a great time and location to socialize, among familiar or unfamiliar faces. It didn’t matter if we knew each other. The same activity, the same mountain creek, the same rubbing sound clothes made when we did the laundry bonded villagers together. Perhaps we would meet them again at a banquet that celebrates a marriage between two other locals; at the wooden doorstep of the same food shop in the market; at a funerary walk that sent crying souls to alleys flanked by archaic houses in memory of a deceased one. I was not aware of any census conducted in this village, but I surmised the village population being a few thousand at the most. Everyone knew each other because of small occasions like doing laundry by the same mountain creek.
Villagers told me that since ancient times we used honey locust to turn into soap that cleaned clothes. It’s a specie of tree found around here. Indeed, many brands of soap bars sold in shops were advertised as using this natural ingredient. Like many designs of modern commerce, I wasn’t sure if these soap bars had other tricky artificial ingredients that polluted water? I’ve never seen a fish in that clear creek, only schools of black tadpoles and very little algae at that time.
“Special grandma” told me stories of how this creek being downstream from the Buddhist temple. “Monks sometimes peed at this creek.” She told me so. Perhaps some did not have high hopes for the monks.
As of now, the creek is no longer alive. Laden down with algae and trash, it no longer functioned as a natural occasion to meet unfamiliar faces.
The clothes were dried in the yard when we returned home. They were kept high on clothing lines. During dinner time, they cast patches of shadows on the wooden dinner table as we dined at the yard.