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My famous washing machine

This is not your typical appliance resurrection: I don't use the words “desperate” and “beloved” casually when I say we are currently engaged in a desperate battle to keep our beloved cottage washing machine going.

Technically, this is Maytag model #A-406, serial #157974DQ.

But, believe me, it's much more than that. Our Maytag was here when we bought the place, way back in 1992. And it was no spring chicken then.

But good luck trying to find out exactly how old it is. I've tried. The online calculators that figure out manufacture dates based on serial numbers generally only go back to 1980.

We're guessing our baby dates back to the 1960s – much older than our children, but an efficient attendant to them as they grew up dredging sand and rocks on Lake Huron, and slipping (sometimes unintentionally, they claim) down the muddy slope, into the creek.

I've heard that repairing appliances older than four years is generally not economical, given the value of technological advancements. That would make trying to repair a machine that is perhaps 60 years old a fool's errand, at best.

But that's part of the allure of saving it. In addition to its role in family lore, our washing machine is kinda-sorta famous. It's the same model immortalized by William Eggleston, who helped make color photography an art form.

Our daughter saw an exhibition of Eggleston's work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and was stunned to see an icon of her childhood on display. She shot the accompanying photo of Eggleston's photo.

It's part of a series Eggleston shot in the 1970s. So the machine's at least 50 years old. But with the word “Automatic” proudly emblazoned on the front (as if there were another kind – manual? really?), I'm thinking it's more likely vintage 1960s.

Luckily the leak from the bottom of the machine only emits about one bath towel's worth of water each outing, so we have some time to find out what's ailing the old girl.

Since geriatric appliances are out of vogue – gauche, even – finding a “doctor” with knowledge of her vintage is another obstacle.

So, we're bracing ourselves for The End.

The cruelest blow? We know it's unlikely we'll find a replacement as hale and hearty.


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