Mother refuses to allow her 4 kids to wear clean pajamas

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

When my mother was a young girl, she lived in a dirt-floor hut in a fishing village on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. She and her family had little, and they were accustomed to a spartan lifestyle.

My mother and her family moved to the United States when she was just six years old. In many ways, their lives changed, but in other ways, their lives did not change.

This was due in significant part to my grandmother, who ruled the roost with an iron fist. She ran the household nearly the same as she had when they lived in a hut with dirt floors, no electricity, and no running water. One example was her approach to laundry.

My grandmother didn't allow her children to wash their clothes when their clothes got dirty. She washed their clothes on her own schedule when she felt it was "time." This rule especially came into play with pajamas.

Because my grandmother was so strict with laundry, she told her children when they could wear clean pajamas. It didn't matter whether the kids had soiled their pajamas, which was a definite possibility since my grandmother didn't permit them to "waste" their undergarments by wearing them beneath pajamas. Undergarments were "day clothes," according to my grandmother.

My grandmother washed her children's pajamas once per week, and it didn't matter whether they were dirty from day one. She wouldn't wash them until Saturday. Then she hung them on the clothesline to dry. If it rained on Saturday, then she washed them the following Saturday. Once again, it didn't matter if the pajamas were ready to be washed sooner.

The pajamas would be ready when my grandmother was ready and not a day earlier.

If the kids wished for clean pajamas before the first week was up, imagine how hard it must have been to wait that second week during rainy weather.

My mother told me she often wished for a second pair of pajamas for such an occasion. "I thought maybe we could rotate them," she said, "but my mother thought otherwise. She said having a second pair of pajamas was a waste of money, especially with four whole kids to clothe."

That was just how they lived their lives. My grandmother preferred washing as little laundry as possible, and her methods extended beyond pajamas and underwear to the rest of their attire.

"We had a washing machine, but we didn't have a clothes dryer. I always wanted one, but I didn't have one until after I married your father," my mother told me. "To tell you the truth, I don't think having a clothes dryer would have made much of a difference to your grandmother. She still would have made us wear dirty pajamas until the next wash cycle no matter how many weekends in a row it rained."

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