We finally finished the repairs on the dock and launched it into the lake last weekend.  In addition to it being beautiful, I was excited to get it out of the yard, because as soon as the dock leaves, my clothesline goes up for the season.  I am happy!

This morning as bright sunshine cast diamonds on the blue surface of the lake, I decided it was a perfect day to wash and hang out sheets and other laundry.  However, what started as a mild breeze quickly became a force to be reckoned with.  The diamonds were replaced with whitecaps and the howling wind whistled through every crevice in the porch.   As it blew, the jeans hanging out to dry filled with so much air that they puffed up like balloons.  Jean balloons hanging on the clothesline.  On the bright side, even heavy jeans dried in less than two hours and came off the line soft and 100% wrinkle free.  Better than the dryer!  Bed sheets dried in less than an hour.  They went back on the bed smoothly and smelled like heaven.   The bed will welcome me with the fresh fragrance of the outdoors when I climb in tonight. 

As I was hanging out the wash, I thought of my mom and how she would disapprove of the helter-skelter way I arranged the laundry.  In Mom’s world there was a right way and a wrong way to do everything, including hanging out the wash. She would often look at the neighbor’s wash line and say, “Didn’t her mother ever teach her how to hang out the wash?  If I hung it out like that my mother would have made me take it all down and start over.”  Apparently, Mom learned her OCD from the best!  While I defied all the rules, we will go with the theory that hanging laundry is more art than science, so anything goes. 

I once read a story in Reminisce Magazine that said women of yesteryear used to be skilled at reading laundry.  “Oh, I see Martha’s son is home from college”; “Suzie must have finally had that baby, it’s about time, she was as big as a house!”; and “Johnsons had a lot of company from the looks of that load of towels and sheets.” Even scandalous information could be gleaned from reading the clothesline: “I thought Mary Lou’s husband was out of town, so whose clothes are on the line?”  Then there is my favorite: “Miss Marian must have a new beau, unless she is wearing those skivvies herself.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  The nerve of her advertising her new love on the clothesline!” Really?  I can’t believe people had time for that kind of research.  If that story is true,  people did not have enough to do! Since reading that, I made sure all my “personal” laundry was hung between the sheets and the towels. Or better yet, I dried them in the dryer.

Have you ever used a wringer washer?  My grandma had one and I would watch with interest.  When I was first married, I became the proud owner of a wringer washer.  Maybe it was a throw away or a give-away, I can’t imagine paying money for it in the ‘70s.  At any rate, it sat outside, and I only used it in the summer.  I lost lots of buttons until I learned the tricks.  If you don’t turn the buttons inside the garment before putting it through the wringer, they break.  You also quickly learn how to be safe with a wringer out of self-defense.  I heard many horror stories of hands or hair going into the wringer with the poor victim trying to turn it off while screaming bloody murder for someone to come to the rescue.  There were other not so horrid stories of clothing the laundress was wearing getting caught in the wringer.  I think women who used wringer washers should have gotten hazard pay! Washing clothes was dangerous in those days.  If the nosey neighbor didn’t get you, the wringer might.  I was quite proud of myself for learning how to safely use a wringer washer.  The experience will certainly never repeat itself.  I was ecstatic when I came home from work one day shortly before our first child was born to discover my husband surprised me with a harvest gold automatic washer and matching dryer.  From then on, the only reason for hanging out sheets was because I liked the smell.

I’m happy to be back to hanging my laundry on the line,  but again, only because I like the smell and I enjoy it.  I appreciate automatic clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, and the other conveniences that make homemaking manageable. The good old days are great for taking a backward glance, but like the song goes: “Memories can be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” On the other hand, memories passed down from generation to generation give us a sense of who we are and where we came from.  Do you hang your laundry on a clothesline?  Did you in the past?  Do you have stories?  Is it art or science or maybe just an unavoidable chore?  Did you hate it, love it, or something in between? I think our grandkids would enjoy a few hanging-out-the- wash stories, either ours or those of women of yesteryear!

Sign up for our email newsletters

Load comments