There is nothing better than listening to laundry on the clothesline as bed sheets flap in the October wind.
That’s right, I love to hang the laundry out to dry on my clothesline. For whatever reason, this simple chore calms me and allows me to breathe, to think, and to meditate…so to speak. I guess I just love the simple life. Laundry on the clothesline, especially during a crisp, October day…can you hear it? Can you smell it….can you feel it?
Photo of my mother hanging the laundry out, many years ago. Photo by Rachel Barduson
My mother taught me the system of hanging clothes out to dry. I always start from the left and go right. Just like a typewriter, one line at a time. If the line droops in the middle, you hang short stuff in the middle. Keep the heavy towels close to the ends, next to the poles that hold up the lines. Back in the day I yearned to be modern and have one of those high-falootin’ clothes dryers. Today, I prefer natural drying…I prefer my clothesline.
But before you can hang the laundry out to dry, you have to haul it, sort it and wash it.
We had an old wringer washing machine in the basement. Laundry day was typically Tuesday, for whatever reason, and we’d start by hauling the clothes hamper down the 25 steps of the stairway…to dump the clothes on the basement’s concrete floor. We’d sort the whites and the darks, bedding and the towels, our undies and our wardrobes. Dishrags were usually already soaking in whatever strong cleaning water solution mother mixed, and dad’s overalls were always the “last load.” You see, of course, the same water was used throughout the several loads that were washed.
Once taken out of the wringer washing machine the load was dumped into a sink full of ice cold water to rinse. We had a long laundry stick to “stir” the clothes in the ice water and piece by piece, put them through the wringer again and into the laundry basket. Oh, that clean laundry smelled good.
Each separate load would be washed and then lugged up the 25 steps of the stairway, out the screen door, into the backyard…and hung on the line. This happened in the spring, the summer, the fall and the winter. Fall was always my favorite time. During MEA week laundry seemed to be done on a Thursday. Autumn and laundry on the line…the memory…is right up there with the World Series and Sandy Koufax, the left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And yes, laundry was hung out during the winter. We’d get those stiff, frozen-solid towels and overalls off the line and take them back down to the basement and hang them on the line down there until they thawed out and eventually dried (weeks later). Our wooden clothespins were used over and over again.
Drying didn’t take as long in the autumn. The October winds were glorious (and still are). It really didn’t seem like such a chore to take those wonderfully smelling sheets off the line. The pillowcases were (and still are) heavenly. Back in the day, I ironed each one with care, it’s how mother taught me to iron, right along with the aprons, the hankies and yup, white T-shirts. (That is a thing of the past…)
But before we could iron, we had to sprinkle the clothes with water. I thought mother’s sprinkling bottle was magical. It never ran out of water. I loved sprinkling. After sprinkling, we carefully rolled each piece of clothing and placed them back into the old wicker laundry basket until it was time to iron. I still haven’t figured out how mother knew exactly when they’d be perfect for ironing. It was truly magical.
Call me old fashioned, or just sentimental, but when I see laundry hanging out on the line, wherever it may be, I just love it. And, I love hanging our laundry out to dry…I’m able to take a deep breath, sigh, and know how lucky we are to revel in Mother Nature’s ability to keep us grounded.