For years I watched my neighbor carry a basket of wet laundry out of her house almost every summer morning, and piece by piece, clip it on the line to dry. And never fail, it conjured up a mixed pot of emotions for me.
On one hand, hanging the laundry on the line seemed like an inefficient use of my time. It’s much faster to whip the wet stuff into the dryer, press “start” and walk away.
On the other hand, I’ll admit, I was a teensy bit jealous because she was doing something that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. We didn’t have a clothesline.
My neighbor always offered to let me use her line, but I always worried we’d pick the same day to do laundry and then I’d be taking up all her space.
All that changed one summer day a couple of years ago when my husband came home with a little gift for me — an umbrella-style clothesline for our backyard.
A gift. Immediately I thought of that scene in “Father of the Bride” when Annie calls off her engagement to Brian because he got her a little gift for their apartment. In the movie, the gift was a blender and Annie sobbed to her dad “What is this 1958 when you get the little wifey a blender? Is that his expectation?”
Like Annie, I wondered if his expectation was that I should be tasked with doing all the laundry, but unlike Annie, I didn’t freak out. Instead, I just let it sit unused in our yard for a couple of weeks while I sorted out my feelings about it.
But finally one morning, after washing the sheets, I carried my basket of wet laundry outside and one by one started clipping the sheets to the line.
I reveled in the solitude of the morning. The sun was warm on my back and the birds were singing nearby, my children were playing quietly inside the house. Off in the distance, I heard the familiar cadence of the Hibbing High School marching band and found that I was actually ENJOYING the time it took to do the laundry. Later in the day, as I pulled crisp sheets off the line, I looked forward to going to sleep surrounded by the smell of fresh air captured in my sheets.
That’s all it took. Now, like my neighbor, I use the clothesline as often as possible. There’s something special about the simple act of hanging the laundry out to dry. It might take a little bit more time, but I’m saving wear and tear on my dryer and maybe a couple of dollars on my electricity bill.
My daughter comes out to help me every once in a while and it never fails, with each clip of the pin on the line, the memories of helping my mom do the same task visit me over and over and over again.
Memories of the hours I spent “helping” my mom hang the laundry on the line — shrieking when the cool wet fabric touched my bare legs and arms while I handed it up to her to clip to the line.
Memories of hot summer days, when my mom would take old sheets and make a tent for my girlfriends, their dolls and me to play house in. Memories of hiding in the sheets as they blew in the breeze, and of course snuggling into great-smelling sheets at the end of the day. Memories of standing in my grandmother’s backyard and visiting with my aunt while she hung her laundry on the line.
It’s funny how simple tasks like this can connect the generations. More often, I hear about how our current consumption-driven/throw away society is creating a huge environmental burden on our planet, and that a lot of small acts — like hanging your laundry out to dry — can really help make a big impact. Whether I’m doing it for the environment or the enjoyment of it until it turns cold again, my laundry will be on the line.