Posts Tagged ‘Laundry days’

"She left the suds in the bucket and the clothes hangin' out on the line."                     ~ sara evans

“She left the suds in the bucket and the clothes hangin’ out on the line.”
~ sara evans


“I still loved Granny. It flowed out of my chest. With Granny gone, where would my love go?”
― Jessica Maria Tuccelli, Glow


“She looks so beautiful… so peaceful… her skin is so smooth and she has no wrinkles,” Tammy whispered softly about her grandmother, as the three of us stood quietly beside her on the day of her death.

Stacey called me and with faltering voice left a message…. “This is so hard to say, Sis, but I think you’d better come quickly.” I knew immediately what she meant. Among so many fears of mine was being with someone I loved so much when they died. So. .. I hesitated briefly, I’m ashamed to admit, and thought for a moment not to come. I could so easily say that I never got the message but in the end…. I didn’t.

In her youth my mother was a beautiful woman. In old age, her beauty shone through all the pages of history that was her story to tell.

I remember looking out the window of her room at the traffic passing so swiftly on the highway and thinking so clearly just after she took her last breath… ‘How can they all be carrying on with life as usual… my mother has just died.”


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Sunny breezy days are ideal for drying clothes and this particular Monday morning in late April offered up sheer bliss. Mom’s demeanor would lighten considerably when she stepped outside to greet such a day.

“It’s more important to have a good breeze than it is to have direct sunlight, Julie” she’d lecture me. “But, today we’re blessed with both and our clothes will dry quickly, without wrinkles and the need to iron.”

After all, it was the ‘fifties’ and, in our household anyway, a clothesline was still a necessity. And yes… we had electricity and Mom had an electric wringer washer which could nearly squeeze the life out of our jeans and towels and sheets but couldn’t quite get them dry enough. Mom’s laundry room was a small corner of the basement with a door leading outdoors to where the clothesline stood. Sequestered away in a small space under the stairwell which I called my ‘cave’, I’d idle away the hours it took for Mom to wash and wring dry Monday’s laundry by playing with all my dolls, until it was time to participate in this chore and help her hang them out to dry.

Marcel Proust reflected that “the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, ready to remind us…” If that’s true, and I do believe it is, then hanging laundry outdoors on a spring day is a veritable feast for the senses. Ever savor the taste of wooden clothes pins? I would dutifully follow Mom’s lead and place two or three woody pins in my mouth at once. Crushed clover beneath your feet emitting such sweetness in the air would bring admonitions galore…“Keep your shoes on, Julie. Bees love the sweet fragrance as much as we do.” The perfection of a sunny breezy day flapping those sheets and towels dry made you want to bury your face in their freshness.

Mother never had to bend to get those clothespins, as the bag she slung over her shoulder kept them within easy reach. We had one of those new-fangled clothes lines too, setting us just a bit apart from the neighbors who hung their clothes from lines strung from pole to pole or fence to fence or by whatever means were available. Mom had a ‘fancy’ four-sided, rotating clothesline that my father anchored with cement near the laundry room door so she wouldn’t have to go far carrying all those wet and heavy burdensome clothes. Nor did she have to move around the fancy structure …. she could simply spin the line and new space would be open for her.

In her silent way, she taught me the unspoken etiquette of hanging clothes on a rotating line. This kind of clothes line afforded you some dignity and saved the embarrassment of hanging certain articles of clothing ‘out there’ for God and everyone else to see. Sheets were on the outside lines, doubled up and attached with extra woody pins to keep them from falling to the ground. We’re working inward now and so shirts and towels and such came next, hung very close to one another so that one pin could attach two garments to the line. Lastly, came all those embarrassing undergarments on the very inside where even the clothespins might blush pink, if they were hung and left open to public view. There was a certain pride in hanging clothes neatly plus it saved time in ironing later because neatness helped prevent wrinkles.

“Never leave the pins on the line, Julie” she would instruct me. “They leave stains behind and can simply ruin our next laundry day.”

In the ‘old days’ your laundry was out there for the world to see and it talked. No gossip over the back fence when the laundry is hung out to dry. Extra towels on the line might mean guests in the house. No men’s shirts today might mean Dad’s away on a business trip and so forth and so on. On this particular Monday, my young brother had been ill over the week-end with a wretched bout of stomach flu and so extra sheets were on our clothesline that day offering up sure clues to our neighbors that someone in the household was ill.

When the phone rang, we were both startled out of our morning task. Mom knew she’d better dash inside to answer it, as she was worried about the well-being of my grandmother and wondered out loud if it might be her sister Aline with some news.

As memories go…. that morning was the first that I ever saw my mother cry. The news was bad and though quite young, I knew immediately that my grandmother had died. We were in the kitchen together and I was at a loss for what to do or say when our neighbor, Peggy, knocked on the back door. It was sheer coincidence that she chose that moment to appear but I was never so glad to see anyone. As it turned out, she’d been brought to our doorstep by the laundry that Mom and I had just hung out to dry. She surmised from the extra sheets that someone might be ill and came to see if she could help in some way. Mom just fell into her arms and Peggy was great consolation to both my mother and I on that Monday morning in April.

To be sure, the passing away of a loved one can be almost unendurable. That in the end it is endurable seems to be both its blessing and its curse. ~ Paula Spencer Scott



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