Sprinkler bottle?


The back porch at my grandparents' house was a multi-functional space. Grandpa had an old metal desk in the corner with a file cabinet next to it. Grandpa had his Bible on the top of the desk with seed catalogs. Above the desk was a large painting of a barn that my mom made for him. There was a door that led into the house and next to it was a door that led to the basement. It was called a "Michigan basement" which is a room under the house that has rock or concrete walls, and a dirt floor. The room had a low ceiling, was dimly lit, and was always cool and damp. I did not like going down there, and in my whole life only went down there a few times. Grandma stored all of her home-canned items in the basement. In the springtime, the back porch had flats of seedlings growing by the wall of windows, and in the wintertime, cousins would play games on card tables. In the corner of the back porch (opposite of Grandpa's desk) was the washer and dryer. Even though Grandma had a dryer, she hung clothes out on the line to dry! There was a cabinet next to the washer and dryer, and that is where I saw a neat looking bottle on a shelf above the cabinet. I asked Grandma what it was, and she told me it was a sprinkler bottle. HUH? She said it was to use when ironing. Uh... ok... if you say so.

This past week we had a bad storm that came on pretty quick and knocked the power out for several days. As my luck would have it, I had just put clothes into the dryer 10 minutes prior. I waited about 15 minutes, hoping the power would come back on, before deciding that I had better pull the clothes out and hang them to dry. One of my least favorite household chores is laundry, and in the dryer were all of my husband's work clothes! It was pouring rain, so I hung the clothes all around the house. While hanging up the clothes, my mind wandered back to my grandma and how she chose to hang clothes on the line in the backyard, even though she had a dryer. I had never really thought about that before until that moment, when I realized that wet clothes are really heavy! I also want to say that the clothesline was across the yard. The smell though... the clothes that hung outside on the line smelled amazing! Maybe that is why she chose to make laundry harder than it had to be? Maybe she loved the sunshine on her sheets?

After washing day, grandma would have ironing day. One day, I was at her house on ironing day, and I saw that curious bottle again. I believe it was an old RC Cola bottle with a metal topper with holes in the top and attached to the bottle with cork. Grandma would sprinkle water onto the clothes and then iron them. I thought that bottle was really neat! Sprinkler bottles have been around a long time, some date back to the early 19th century. Some bottles are more ornate, featuring an elephant, rooster, poodle or cat. Most often though, women had a makeshift sprinkler bottle with the cork topper placed onto an old soda pop or vinegar bottle. Sometimes, starch would be added to the water in the bottle to stiffen shirt collars and iron crisp lines into the sleeves of a shirt for church. I love that my grandparents were hard working down to earth people. I truly love when there are little moments where a memory of them will flood my mind, even if it is about a sprinkler bottle!

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