When Appliances Break Down, We Have to Slow Down

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"Appliances" by Merridith Frediani (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2015), CC0/PD

I was squatting on the basement floor willing my washing machine to keep going when I wondered if there is a patron saint of home appliances because this is a family in need of some intercession.

I was trying not to humanize the washer but I kept cheering it on, telling it what a good heap of steel it is. After eighteen long minutes it clicked off and I danced to the “I’m finished” tune my washer is programmed to sing.

I’m still in need of intercession, though. The dishwasher broke yesterday. I should have known, when it took hours longer than usual to run through the cycle, something was amiss. My optimistic state ended when I opened the door expecting to find an array of clean dishes and saw dirty ones instead. I wish I could say I’m making this up or embellishing a little for the sake of a good story, but the truth is that for the past seventeen years we have bought a new dishwasher every three years.

If it was just the washing machine acting up or just the dishwasher, I could be zen but the clothes dryer, my Speed Queen commercial, heavy duty dryer with extra large capacity and six cycles dynamo, expired several months ago.

In November 1994, my husband and I moved into our first house and purchased our first appliances: a Speed Queen washer and dryer. I remember going to Sears and picking them out. We were thoughtful consumers. I was adamant that we get the largest capacity machines we could afford because one day I would be washing kids’ clothes. The washing machine died but that glorious dryer held on for ten more years. All told, it survived 24 years, six moves, five houses and a new heating sensor.

I suspected there was something afoot when it became increasingly difficult to turn it on. In my hopeful naivete, I thought it would be something simple. The repair guy was sympathetic and seemed as pained to tell me it was the motor as I was to hear it.

My husband rallied though, knowing how much this particular appliance meant to me (and how unwilling I was to drop a pile of money on a new one). He YouTube-d how to replace a motor, found one online and set to work. It was beautiful. After minimal aggravation, my dryer was back.

Until …

Re-assembling a dryer is trickier than one might think, and over time the drum became loose. Clothes started coming out with holes and weird grease spots. Every item with a drawstring lost its string. The guy came back. As much as he tried to be positive, there was no fixing this. There are no replacement parts for dryers born in 1994.

Farewell, good and faithful servant. Goodbye, old friend. No other appliance in the history of our marriage has been so stable, so reliable, so dependable.

It was sad. What was sadder was a load of wet laundry I had to deal with. Even sadder, the fact that I couldn’t just abort the laundry mission. It had to be done. People needed clean undies and school clothes. Up went the clotheslines, up went the wet clothes. The dehumidifier worked overtime to get the moisture out of the air. The next day brought the same. Hanging socks is tedious. I had to get creative to get everything to fit.

I have gained a greater appreciation for appliances. If I had to hand wash not just dishes but clothes, I wouldn’t be glad. I know the dishwasher will be fixed and one day we will buy a dryer. Hopefully the next time I am crabby, I will pause and remember that at least I’m not hand washing my clothes in icy Lake Michigan and beating them against rocks.

I have also started using the time hanging, taking down, and folding for spiritual benefit. I can listen to a podcast homily or pray a Rosary. I can offer up a Hail Mary for someone with each piece I hang. The routine has caused me to slow down. The appliances we enjoy make our lives easier and free us up for other activities, but I wonder if they have contributed to a hurry-up, noisy world.

It also makes me more aware of my role serving my family. I have been trying to reframe my attitude and remember the blessing of a family to serve and, through them, serve God. Being present in the daily chores gives me time to reflect and pray.

While I am thankful for the appliances in my life, I am also thankful, in a weird way, when they break down and I have to slow down. It is a good reminder of what is important: caring for each other and serving our Lord.


Copyright 2019 Merridith Frediani

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About Author

Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, tending to dahlias and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. Her favorite part of the day is family dinner which sometimes doesn’t happen until 8:30 pm. She enjoys hanging out on the front porch and laughing with family and friends. Good Italian wine is a must.

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