The Washstand
Author: Shiloh


There it was, in all its glory, a survivor,
standing proudly, and still serving its purpose
as it had been for many years.
Since the early 1900s, placed there by the builder of the house,
it has only been moved to replace or paint the back porch.

The washstand had been built with the height of the user in mind,
so as to be comfortable to use and not cause anyone
to have to bend over too much,
which added to the convenience of its existence.

(The last time it had been painted was in the late 40s,
as memory served to tell, with some surplus navy paint,
which was common to the area.
Half the houses and buildings in town
had a touch of that color somewhere,
and out behind the long overgrown victory garden,
in the old cinder block garage that now only held the lawnmower,
where the inside walls matched the color of the washstand,
on a shelf up high, behind ancient paper boxes of nails and staples,
beyond a stack of old Rod & Gun magazines,
beside a wooden tackle box and an old army green ammo can,
were two gallons of navy issued surplus paint, still sealed shut,
long forgotten by all who had handled them,
and likely solid as a brick inside,
as was the ages of dust and dirt on the outside of the cans.)

Although there were places where old paint and old chips still stood out,
you could see that at one point the washstand had been painted with care.
The years, however, had taken the strength from the strokes of paint,
and as they had aged, they had weakened and changed,
and now those strokes were cracked, separated and curled,
like the bits of clay and mud you would find where a river or stream
had once rolled, but now was dried up and only a memory...

It was functional, this washstand; sturdy, dependable,
which was proof, indeed, of the talents of the builder.
The strength of the small pieces of wood were reinforced by each other,
in the way they had been joined together when they were fashioned
into the tall table with the small shelf for a bar of homemade soap.

Still today, upon its small top there was enthroned an old enameled wash pan,
and an equally aged enameled water pitcher, which was filled every morning.
Above the stand was an old and slightly rusted 10-penny nail,
which served as the towel rack for the many feed sacks and towels
that had been an accessory of the washstand through the years.

To the side of that nail was another nail, equally scarred,
holding up an old shaving mirror, now cracked and no longer used,
but left behind in reverent memory of times that had long gone by.

On the shelf below the wash pan, next to the ever-present bar of soap,
was an old straight-edged razor, now rusted closed,
but once a bit of personal pride to the owner.
The shelf itself had long ago inherited the colorings
of the various bars of soap placed there.

The wash pan itself was a thing of simple beauty,
with traces of the proof of color still showing here and there
along the rim, but mostly worn away now with daily use...

The sides of the pan sloped gently downward and to the center,
enabling someone to slide their hands down and then bring them up,
cupping water to splash into the face which was bent over the pan,
clearing away some of the dust of the day's toils,
with the stray lines of water which escaped the face and hands
rollling and sliding around the back of the neck,
and work-worn fingers then running through the hair, in a slight attempt
at combing out the dirt from the workday.

Chipped, battle-scarred, and holding secrets of life and history
that others only read about, but didn't experience,
and therefore couldn't truly appreciate,
this little wooden bit of life still stands sentinel to the back door,
on the porch where it had first been placed nearly a century ago...

Oh, the house has indoor plumbing and running water,
but the old man who lives there still remembered,
and out of habit, possibly in honor and respect of the past,
he still uses that old wash pan and pitcher
that sits upon the washstand,
and he still dries his hands and face with a towel
that hangs from a nail beside the door.
And maybe tomorrow he'll repaint the stand.


Comments on this poem/writing:

Harvey ( -- Sunday, October 19 2014, 06:56 pm

photographic memory

as if we were there - in memoriam
Name:                                           Remember Me

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