“You Can’t Wash ‘Tockins, Gramma.”

posted in: Family 11
Woman with 'tockins, 1953. Image: Wikipedia.
Woman with ‘tockins, 1953. Image: Wikipedia.


Do you ever have a task that just sits and sits because you don’t want to do it, so you don’t prioritize it, and then you finally do do it, not because you suddenly become excited to do it, but because you’ve just had it with yourself and can’t stand to not do it anymore?

Today, because I couldn’t stand another day of avoiding doing so, I finally hand-washed my stockings, pantyhose, and nylons. I don’t know if those are all slightly different things or essentially the same things, but I have more to get done this evening and can’t go look it up at the moment. All I know is that what I own in this wardrobe category lives in a single drawer in my closet but has been living in a small laundry basket for probably two months while I go about not dealing with washing it all.

Now, I don’t wear stockings too often and really never in the summer, but that’s just the point: Since I don’t need these items right now, it’s a great time to wash them and have them all nice when the weather turns. I’m not sure what was keeping me from doing it, honestly. I can think of a bunch of chores I dislike way more than handwashing (e.g., rinsing out a garbage can, dealing with that container of hummus in the back of the fridge that may or may not date to the Pleistocene Era, writing enormous tuition payments, etc.)

But today was the day that I completed the task and it was great, not only because now I have nicely-washed ‘tockins, but because I remembered the cutest story and thought of my Gramma Graham.

“Mary,” you’re saying, “I’m excited to hear a cute story and I’d love to know about your grandmother, but you’ve got a typo. It’s ‘stockings’, not ”tockins”.”

Oh, it’s no typo, my friend, though I do appreciate your eagle-eye. Indeed, I meant to say ‘tockins — and I’ll tell you why.

Dorothy Graham was my mother’s mother and she was the best. She had a graduate degree in English and taught high school English for many years. She had three children, one of which was my mother, so good job there, Gramma. She was honest, hard-working, and kind. She always had Fun-Size Snickers bars in her pantry and all my friends loved her, especially my friend Annie, who would just go hang out with Gramma, even if I wasn’t around. Oh, and by the way: Gramma started the town newspaper in Norwalk, Iowa, when she was sixty years old, people. That local paper is still going strong today, though my gramma passed in 2001. Dorothy shows up in my dreams, sometimes, and I love that when it happens. Remind me to tell other stories about her, okay?

Anyway, it’s years ago and I’m playing at Gramma’s house in Norwalk. I don’t know exactly how little I was, but I was darn little. Gramma was doing the laundry — and what do you suppose she was handwashing in the back bathroom? Her nylons and such, just like I did today. But back then, I knew exactly one thing about nylons/pantyhose: that I could not touch them or pull on Mom’s or Gramma’s because these strange garments were very, very fragile and delicate. Think about it: No one in pantyhose wants a four-year-old putting her grubby mitts on her stockings, so it’s a good strategy to say they are basically made of gossamer filament and pure air. And to a four-year-old, that’s totally what a sheer pair of pantyhose looks like: weird thread and air.

So, as the story goes, I walk into the bathroom and I see my Gramma washing nylons in the sink. And I see several pairs hanging up on the shower rod. And my eyes get big as dinner plates. And I cannot believe what I’m seeing. And I say, in shock and extremely concerned:

“Gramma! You can’t wash ‘tockins!!”

My gramma thought this was great. She explained to me that yes, ‘tockins were delicate, but that they were strong enough to wash, that they wouldn’t disintegrate in water and in fact could take a lot of wear, if a person was careful.

All my ‘tockins are hanging up on the shower right now, drip-drying. I shouldn’t have waited so long to do the task; I love being a woman with ‘tockins in the bathroom, and I loved my gramma, and really, all humans are all alike.