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119 28 There are people in the village who have so many bedlinens that they only need to do the washing twice a year. On the Giefer farm, too, they let the dirty linen pile up for six months until the women do a big wash. It is spring. In the open shed, a big wooden tub is set up.The dirty linen is put into it. Mother stretches a worn sheet across it and scatters white wood ash on top.The ash has been collected from the stove. In the kitchen, the Grandmother and Mother boil water in large pots on the stove. Mother finds it hard to work because she is expecting another child. Maria carries buckets of boiling water to the shed. She is strong, even though she is only sixteen. She slowly pours the hot water over the ashes and it seeps through the fabric into the tub. Maria keeps on fetching boiling water until the sheets are covered.Then, Mother pulls out the plug and lets the water run out. Again, Maria has to fetch water. Grandmother stands sweating at the stove, keeping the fire going. The process ­ continues—fill up the tub with hot water, empty it again, several times over until the tub is as hot as the water itself. Only then does Mother allow the linens to soak in the hot water.After a few hours, she lays a board into the tub, takes a piece of wood, and she pounds the wet wash. Then Maria helps her to load the linens into a tub and to carry it past the chicken patch to Dörfer Creek. The water in the stream is clear, the gravel bed clean. Sky blue forget-me-nots, mauve lady’s smock, and golden marsh marigolds grow along the banks. Mother and Maria spread out the sheets lengthways in the brook. The clear water flows over them and rinses away all the dirt. The linen is clean. They hang it behind the house on wires stretched between the old fruit trees. It takes a whole day to do the great washing. Maria thinks of the soap she had never seen before her time in Aachen. Who on the Giefer farm or anywhere in the village has ever seen soap? Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 119 4/26/2017 12:17:39 PM 120 Maria Wallisfurth The small wash is boiled in a large vat every Saturday. A bag of wood ash is hung in it.The clean dry linen is pulled smooth over the edge of the table on Sunday morning. That’s as good as anything, Maria thinks, for no one in Freilingen owns an iron. The people in Freilingen say,“Hubert Giefer can hear the fleas sneeze in his sleep,” and by that, they mean he knows very well how to make a buck. Maria is used to Father driving off early in the morning with his horse and cart, but she does not know where he goes. When she asks Grandmother, she gets the reply,“Cattle, buy and sell.” How does he do that? Maria wonders . Often, there are strangers in the front room who stay for dinner. They are usually given something special, like Father, too. They are cattle dealers or hunters who come from the cities of Aachen and Cologne, and they meet in Blankenheim to go hunting in the forests. Father can talk to them for hours on end.A bottle stands on the table with small glasses, and Father’s face becomes red, and he often laughs with the strangers. In June, a new brother is born. He is to be called Hubert, like his father. Maria likes that. When the weather becomes warm, Maria goes to work with the seamstress in Hüngersdorf again. She returns home on the weekends. She knows that Father is managing without her help on the farm so that she can learn a trade. After only a few weeks, her brother Klöss turns up in Hüngersdorf to take Maria home for good. Without receiving any explanation why, she packs her things in a bundle, takes her leave and walks home deep in thought beside her silent brother. Father now wants to have her at home, but why? During the next few days, in the middle of harvest time when everybody has to work especially hard and there is no time to waste, Maria notices a change in Freilingen. Men and women...


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MARC Record
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