Sunday, January 24, 2010

Le Lavoir, The Washing Place, Moiry (Nièvre) France

Le Lavoir, The Washing Place, (Nièvre) France
Rebecca Goethe DeVries

The Washing Place is the noisiest place in the village. It is called “Le Lavoir’’. There the women go, not to wash their clothes, but to rinse them. The soaping and rubbing is done in a large cauldron at home. No one would have enough water to do the rinsing. It is also a great social place for gossip. There, reputations are made or destroyed. The talk is loud and sometimes rough.  When I was playing nearby, often my mother ordered me to go and look at the ducks and geese on the pond. Once something very funny happened.

           Madame Barbier, coming to do her rinsing, found her place occupied by a young woman of the village. In each place at the lavoir one kneels while rinsing and beating the clothes with a paddle. Mme. Barbier asked the young women politely to give her her place. The young woman refused saying, “You can have it when I get through.’’ Mme Barbier was a well-respected, middle aged woman and also known for her explosive temper. She again asked for her place. Yvette refused. The women all watched. Then Mme Barbier, with a quick gesture, took Yvette by the wrist and plunged her up and down in the soapy water. Now, when Yvette meets Mme Barbier, she bows to her very politely.
Translation and Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, April 13, 2004, Brewster. MA 02631

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