Cutting Room Floor Excerpts: Wash Day, or Did You Know an Iron had a Soul?


Every manuscript must undergo the dreaded editing process, THE ALTERED I is no exception. In the process some of my favorite parts had to be cut from what would be the finished product. Either the narrative seemed completely random, or meandering, or just didn’t fit anymore within the story. This is called Killing Your Darlings.

However, as I was killing some of the darling parts, in the back of my mind I was planning a resurrection of sorts. I surmised that a lot of it could be re-purposed in a blog format. So I didn’t mind that a lot of superfluous stuff had to go, I always knew somehow I would bring it to light again.

I leave it to you Dear Reader to decide for yourself whether any of if should be on display. But, if you are a fan of the book and a big fan of Joe and just want to know more about him or his life, then here is an opportunity to see all the bits I left out. Please bear in mind these are unedited excerpts.

I’ll be blogging some of the excerpts from time to time and I hope you enjoy them, if not, well then killing them out of the book was the way to go.

Today I’ll be starting with one of my favorite parts (they are all my favorite parts!) cut from the manuscript. The scene is from an early time in Joseph’s life. He is not even school age yet. Wash day may seem trivial in the context of the subject of the Holocaust, but to me it is basic and yet endearing. It sheds light on a way of life no longer known, and it pictures a mother and child in the course of their work-a-day life. Also, it makes me thankful for my beautiful front loading side-by-side washer and dryer.

Joseph Kempler and his older sister Dziunka (Judy)  Laub

Joseph Kempler and his older sister Dziunka (Judy) Laub


Too young to be a part of the adult world my sister lived in, I was left to the world of weekly house chores with Mamusia. As a constant companion to Mamusia there was always the tasks of cooking, cleaning, mending, shopping, and of course the especially tedious task of laundering. Laundering was a multiple step process that required the partnership of  Mamusia and her maid Marysia and several days to finish the job. 

All the cleaning supplies, including the immense  wooden bucket,  had to be hauled down from the attic to the kitchen. As a small child I would sit on a stool and observe the whole, long process. An active child, I became bored and restless. I searched the house for something, a magazine or newspaper, anything I could get my little hands on to escape the tedium of laundry day.

Because the wooden bucket was large, and all the paraphernalia involved in the cleaning process scattered about, there was no room in the kitchen. It was so time consuming and space invading I don’t know when there was time for cooking anything. Perched precariously on the stool I had a good view of all the laundry action, but it wasn’t the safest place for a child. One time I was too near the rushed activity and some boiling hot water splashed on the back of my knees and I howled in pain. 

Once the boiling process was finished Mamusia and Marysia left the wash to sit in the bucket of soapy water overnight. The next day the duo took the wash out and poured warm water into the bucket, then they placed the laundry back in the bucket and scrubbed the linens up and down on a washboard. Then it was left again overnight with the starch in it. On the third day after the starching, a bluing agent would be added to the laundry to whiten it. Afterwards the clothing and linens had to be rinsed and wrung dry, placed in a basket and hauled up three stories to the clothesline in the attic. I didn’t like the attic, especially during the colder months. It was drafty and I shivered constantly.

The laundry was kept on the clothesline until dry. This could take up to two days. Once it was dry it was all taken down and brought to a place of business where they had a machine called a mangler. This machine had large wooden rollers. The laundry was wrapped around the rollers and then it was rolled back and forth to soften the fabric. Once the mangler had done its job then the laundry was taken back home to be ironed.

The iron itself appeared to be a living being, it even had a chamber called the soul. The soul was removable and placed on red hot coals. Once heated the soul was placed in the outer housing of the iron. Mamusia had two souls going at once. While one soul was inside the iron, the other was heated on the coals. I noticed that there was a certain tricky technique involved with the iron. There had to be just the right amount of heat otherwise if it was too hot it would burn the clothing. Most of the time time she used a wet cloth on top of the garment. Mamusia licked her finger and touched the iron to test the temperature. To me it seemed in order not to burn the clothing or linens, ironing was almost a science in itself. 


Want to read more from THE ALTERED I? Click on LeRue Press. Also available on Amazon and Google Play.


2 responses to “Cutting Room Floor Excerpts: Wash Day, or Did You Know an Iron had a Soul?

  1. Pingback: Cutting Room Floor Excerpts: The Old Synagogue | Reno Gal Says

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