Encore: When A Clothes Hamper is More Than Just a Clothes Hamper

The heavy white dirty clothes hamper of my mother’s was one of our favourite toys. It could be anything. On Saturday evenings my mother would ritually perch each daughter on top, one after the other, after our evening bath and tightly roll our hair in torturously hard yellow plastic prickly curlers and wrap each of our head in paisley printed sateen babushkas. This ritual would ensure that each of her offspring would have cute Shirley Temple curls for church the next morning. On Saturdays only was the hamper viewed as being contributory to a torturous night sleep…

for the rest of the week it was an instrument of imagination.

The outside of the hamper was white plastic imprinted with maniacal swirls and stars. I figured out if I put a piece of blank paper over it and rubbed with a wax crayon I could get the most interesting of designs a few of which were good enough to find their way on the refrigerator door or taped to the kitchen cupboard.

The hamper was the best place to hide when the neighbour kids were over to play hide and seek. A little kid hoped for a few dirty clothes at the bottom to soften the seclusion…especially if the seeker was especially slow that day. And because the lid was heavy and closed with a “thud” you were secure in a relatively sound proof hiding place to giggle freely over the ingenious choice of hiding spots without giving yourself away.

And what a wonderful pretend countertop or desk! My sisters and I would drag it out of the bathroom into the living room or our bedroom and have it serve an alter when we played mass, or a desk when we played school or even a kitchen counter on which we rolled out imaginary dough to make the best Saskatoon pies on the planet. It was also an ironing board, a surfboard, a drum and even a “time out” spot for the cat where we’d stick out finger in the air holes at the back and have Beatrice the Cat bat away.

I have fond, fond memories of that sturdy white clothes hamper with it’s glittering gold handles.

My friends who have kids often tell me that when their children are very small they seem to have more fun playing with the boxes their toys came in rather than the toys themselves. When do we lose the ability to amuse ourselves with the basic of materials and our own imaginations? So often we automatically think, “if only I had a DS or a Wii or an X-box”, not that there is anything wrong with owning these things, but remember the good ol’ days when the box the new washing machine came in caused enough excitement to last a week. Or if the cat had kittens your mother didn’t see you for the whole summer because you planted yourself beside that box of kittens at every opportunity.

I wonder if those days still exist for children?

So inexpensive.

So simple.

So imaginative.

So incredibly filled with whatever potential the imagination holds.


2 thoughts on “Encore: When A Clothes Hamper is More Than Just a Clothes Hamper

  1. I definitely played in the hamper, but my favorite thing as a kid was the whole in the bottom of my grandma’s upstairs closet. Because if you dropped a small toy through, it showed up like magic in the downstairs coatroom. I guess I didn’t have a good idea of the house layout, because this seemed like magic to me. Of course the down side was that 1 in 10 toys I dropped would end up stuck forever between the floors. I wonder what lost treasures are in there still…

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