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A Real Taste of History

by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 08, 2018 09:40

I had an amazing time-travel experience this morning.  It was unexpected, and quite a hoot, but one that I wouldn’t wish to repeat. In the wink of an eye, I was flung back to the pre-washing machine era.

Since most of my novels are historical, people tend to think that I must wish I had lived in ages past.  But the truth is, the more I have studied history, the more I am glad I live when I do.  While bygone eras might seem romantic to us, I think that truthfully, we would not find them so pleasant.

That was my experience this morning as I sat here working on my latest book, “The Inheritance.”  The beautiful silence of the morning was shattered by an awful sound.  It came from the laundry room.  I raced to see what had happened, and found that my twenty-year-old washing machine had passed away in the middle of the wash cycle.  Nothing I did could coax it to give me one more cycle.  I had no choice but to pull the soapy, sodden laundry out of the machine and haul it into the kitchen where I dumped the entire mess into the sink.

As I rolled up my sleeves, I thought: How hard can this be?  People have been washing clothes by hands for thousands of years.

Well, let me tell you: writing about history is a lot easier than living it!  For thirty agonizing minutes I scrubbed and beat and battered those towels and sheets and thick socks (it couldn’t have been a load of dainty little hankies, could it?) until my arms ached.  Then I had to rinse them, going from one sink to the other, hoisting, plunging, swirling, wringing until my muscles screamed with pain.

I now have a new respect for the people I write about, as I sit here in my cool and quiet office while machines are doing work for me.  I admire my characters now as they walk all those miles, and build all those dwellings, and make their own candles, and pluck their own chickens and, yes by golly, wash their own clothes!  Heroes, every one of them.

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