Last week, my 42-year-old dryer gave up the ghost, mid-load. Worse, I think I killed it. I ran a wet heavy blanket on the high cycle, something I’ve done on numerous occasions before. But under the strain, its aged heart, er, power relay, gave out and it tumbled its last. Services are pending.
Seriously. Major grief going on here.
Now, those who are not pathologically sentimental saps would think of this as an appliance. But this machine and I had become close, especially so during my single-mom era. I admit it’s a sad commentary when for 10 years, the most stable influence in your life was your dryer.
A 42-year-old dryer is 250 years old in appliance years, so I knew this time was coming. Of course, I’ve been thinking that for 30 years now. Amazingly, it had only two repairs in its entire now-ex life: a new gasket around the door in ’87, a motor repair in ’96. While every other appliance in my adult life has precipitously crumped (generally at maliciously inopportune times), the dryer just kept chuntering along, year after year, decade after decade.
I even considered having the dryer repaired, assuming one could even get parts for a 42-year-old dryer. The unsentimental Olof rolled his eyes. He doesn’t call me the Grim Weeper for nothing.
Over dinner, I explained to him my attachment to the machine, aside from the fact that it reliably worked. I can become attached to anything in my house that reliably works. But my whole adult life tumbled inside that machine: my ’70s bell- bottoms, my ex-husband’s khakis, goobery bibs and tiny socks, kids’ play clothes, filthy tennis shoes, and later on, soccer goalie shirts, grass-stained baseball pants, basketball jerseys, crew uniforms, Olof’s Dockers, tons of towels and a mountain of bedding. Literally thousands of loads. How can you not form an attachment to something that has seen your underwear at its worst?
The dryer was purchased when we bought this house in 1973 and we went for the all-the-rage new color: avocado green. None of those passé white appliances for us! Of course, we could have gone for the other hot new color, harvest gold, but we liked the way the avocado green matched the equally trendy green shag carpet that was already in the house.
Over the years, people who have seen our avocado green dryer have ridiculed it with “Geesh, that color was hideous.” News flash, millennials: people coveted this color in 1973. In 2030, those au courant stainless steel appliances will have people cringing. Believe it.
Of course, ever decorating-forward, we also purchased the dryer’s chromatic counterpart, the avocado green washer. Alas, it succumbed in early 1980s, widowing the dryer at the age of nine (75 in appliance years).
An incident in 1983 almost did the dryer in. My first husband and I had separated days earlier and there was no happiness in my life at the time. My older son, Rory, recently 6, ever a barometer for emotional distress in the household, decided to shift the focus. While playing with the hose on the patio, Rory suddenly noticed the dryer vent on the side of the house and decided, for reasons probably left best to him, stick the hose into it. A dryer full of water was, without saying, an eventuality not covered in my owner’s manual. I bailed it out but was still afraid to turn on the dryer on. I had visions of becoming the subject of one of those consumer safety shows where
they pan up to the charred remains of my house. (Cut to cemetery where a small, engraved urn surrounded by flowers reposes on a grassy hill.) A neighbor ascertained that the electrical parts of the machine were not wet and recommended running the dryer for several hours to let it dry. Which I did — standing over it with a fire extinguisher.
Despite the dryer’s brief masquerade as a washer, it valiantly tumbled on. While my 30-something sons have often offered to buy me a new one, I couldn’t see replacing a perfectly working dryer. They saw ugly. I saw family. Before they took my avocado green
friend away, I hugged it. Well, as much as you can hug something that is 27 wide by 29 deep. I even suggested to Olof that we have a party for it. “Inga,” he kept saying, “it’s a dryer.” He suggested moving it out to the patio as a retro serving area if I truly couldn’t bear to part with it.
So the new dryer is here. We’re still bonding. And I’m still grieving. If only I hadn’t set the dryer too high. If only I’d put the blanket through an extra spin cycle. If only ..