I recently found this photograph of my maternal grandmother on the back porch of her farmhouse in Drake Saskatchewan doing her laundry. It fascinated me. You see I had known since I was very small that Grandma had experienced a tragedy while doing her laundry and this photo reminded me of that.
When I was a little girl and would sit on my grandmother’s lap I noticed that the skin on one of her arms was laced with scars and hung down from the bone in a crepey and twisted way. My grandmother was a very attractive petite woman who always dressed beautifully so this anomaly in her appearance intrigued me. Grandma explained to me that once her arm had been caught in the wringer of a washing machine and that had permanently scared her arm.
I asked my aunt about the accident when I phoned her yesterday and she said it happened in the mid 1940s in summer on the back porch in a scene similar to the one in the photograph. My aunt already had a teaching job in a nearby community where she spent the winter but her summers were spent at her parents. She remembers being inside and hearing my grandmother screaming. She and her sister ran outside to find their mothers’ arm caught in the wringer of the washing machine. Somehow as she fed the clothing through the wringer her hand got caught in the moving rollers and her arm up to her elbow was crushed. My aunt doesn’t remember if they called the doctor and my grandmother’s hand and arm eventually healed.
I never noticed that grandma’s hand lacked mobility. She crocheted, painted, hooked rugs and wrote letters in a lovely hand so aside from its appearance her arm seemed normal. She was not at all embarrassed about her deformed arm and let us touch the loose skin. We asked her to tell us the story of her laundry accident over and over. My grandmother was a beautiful person through and through and her scars only made her more interesting.