Air

I went into Lu’s room just before dinner – and I caught the scene. Bed unmade. Bedsheet had slid off most of the mattress. Pile of clean clothes on the bed. I put them there earlier for her to put away. Except two wet towels were now laying on top of the clean clothes.

I called Lu from her sister’s room to come and clean up. She often lets her own room build up and then escapes to her sister’s bed.

‘Come on Lulu, I washed those clothes. With my own feet.’

We both recoiled a little.

‘I was feeling bad until you said that,’ Lu said.

I nodded, stirring bubbling tomato sauce. ‘Seems I lost my moral high ground there.’

She did put the clothes away. And I do wash the clothes with my feet. I stamp on them outside in the big bucket until they’re clean. Well, I stamp on the clothes until I’m bored. This doesn’t take long.

I don’t rinse them either. There’s not enough water for that luxury. Our clothes aren’t really that dirty anyway – I’m only taking a bit of sweat out of them and making them fresh again. Sometimes the odd tomato stain. Anything really bad and I spray it with vanish spray. Knickers might need some extra work. But that’s the extent of my washing regime. Keeps the clothes line moving.

Patrice called us up a week or so ago. He’s been busy recently. He’s lifted his Southerly 49, Astra out of the water here in Bonaire at the little boatyard. Quite a brave move, though he does have a lifting keel to make it safer. This is because the slipway at the boatyard in Bonaire is comparatively shallow. For us, we have to go to Curaçao to lift out in April.

Anyhow, Patrice spent time telling us about the super laundromat he’s been using. To Jack. I’m not sure if, by telling my husband, he’s trying to intervene based on ambivalence of our washing system or if he’s trying to save me from his perception of female boat slavery. She’s forced to do the washing – with her feet?

Haha. Patrice is a good person. But the words are wasted – and especially on my husband. Overall, it’s been my experience that boat-living can make gender roles more ingrained, not less. Like I’m not going to start pouring oil into the dinghy fuel can or servicing the outboard. I could at least do the first one, but I don’t. Similarly, Jack doesn’t stomp much on the washing. He could – and he does if I ask him. Mostly I do it though.

The girls do it if I ask too, but I usually do the washing in the mornings while they’re doing school. I like this routine. Plus I don’t like to let dirty landry build up over days. This is the other reason I’ll eschew a washing machine. If you do a little bit almost every day, it’s manageable. And you almost always have fresh pjs.

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