It was a perfect spring today. Lots of sunshine, a slight breeze and a blue sky made me think about hanging wash out to dry. At my grandmother’s house in Pennsylvania, it was one of the few chores that I really enjoyed. Fighting stiff sheets in the breeze while trying not to swallow the wooden clothespins grew into a talent. I loved grabbing the pins and stuffing them into the swinging bag. My cousins and I would race to the finish. In Manhattan, we had a clothesline strung from our fifth floor apartment across the airshaft to a friend’s apartment in the opposite building.The clothes dried, but not much could be said for their cleanliness, and if you missed grabbing a pair of underwear, they were lost forever. To my knowledge, no one had ever safely navigated the bottom of the air shaft. It would be like an archeological dig.These photos taken at the children’s garden in the Memphis Botanic Garden sum up the experience and beauty for me. I think we’d help ourselves and our planet if we resurrected wash lines.
Tag Archives: laundry
A side porch in North Carolina is where I borrowed the ancient washing machine and abandoned materials. The weathered siding came from a garage in Tennessee. Together they hint at a time before everything was electric, fast and disposable.Sometimes taking a step backward isn’t wrong. My memories of my grandmother spending all morning with a wringer washer and hanging the clothes on a double line across her front yard are strong. My job was to capture the errant clothespins and corral them in a pouch that waved in the breeze.. The kitchen smelled from warm soapy water and the scent of the clothes was a blend of sunshine and zinnias. Detergents and fabric softeners can’t compete with the memory.
Lady Slippers or Grandma’s Dancing Shoes
Wrapped in tissue paper memories
Grandma’s dancing shoes
Napped on the top shelf of her closet.
The silk slippers with pearl buttons,
Remnants of another life,
No longer fit her knobbed feet
and twisted toes.
On laundry days,
Trapped in mid-flight with their tails dangling,
Competed with the zinnias for attention.
While her house dresses,
gay paper lanterns fluttering in the breeze,
made the garden ready for a party.
When the washing was hung,
Grandma danced barefoot
on the grass.