You can still see them, though they have become few and far between. Dotting the landscapes of farm yards, and even in some residential areas not governed by HOA’s. It would seem that they have become frowned upon by those that do not care to see the neighbor’s laundry hanging in the breeze to dry by the warm sun. Of course, I am talking about the clothesline. Growing up in the 60’s I don’t remember not having a clothesline in our yard, wherever we lived!! I recall helping Grandmother carry the heavy basket laden with damp bedding from the washer, out to the clothesline where the clothespins were waiting in the flowered bag on the line. We would shake each piece of laundry as we carefully pinned them to the line with the wooden clothespins as we slid that little bag along. Soon the lines would be aflutter with bedding, work shirts, and whatever whites needed the extra sun for whitening. In the summer months, we would start early in the morning, and the clothes and bedding would be more than ready for folding before noon.
It wasn’t until my son was born that I truly appreciated the clothesline for its whitening abilities. I learned early on that hanging his freshly washed diapers on the line in the early morning sun would remove even the most stubborn stains without the use of any Clorox. It was even a bigger treat when time came to fold. Those white cotton diapers were so easy to fold straight from the line. But, by far the biggest benny for me has always been crawling into a freshly made bed with the wonderful scent of sheets dried on the clothesline. It simply doesn’t get much better than that in my book. Hanging the blankets and pillows out in the breeze and sun can freshen any bedroom. I don’t think it’s a lost art, but I do recall my father-in-law telling me I better buy all the clothespins I could find because the clothesline was becoming extinct. His way of telling me that I was just a bit “old-fashioned,” but I also knew how much he enjoyed the fresh bedding on his bed.
That brings me to my “Sanctuary.” It was the early 80’s, and I had re-married with my toddler son in tow, and we instantly became a family of five!! Oh, how quickly life had changed for all of us! A teenage son, adolescent daughter, a toddler, plus my husband and myself. For those who say “ignorance is bliss,” they never jumped into a second marriage at the ripe old age of 26. The children had issues I expected. What I wasn’t expecting was also having to raise my husband.
After the wedding, life was on. The first morning as the new Mrs., the septic tank backed up into the basement. I know, I know, “there’s your sign!” Easy to laugh now, but that was one of many little spontaneous eruptions that needed to be dealt with head-on. The days grew into weeks, and try as I might, it just didn’t seem to be getting easier. Pray as I might, it was a struggle, to say the least. The early 80’s didn’t offer much in the way of support for the “blended family” as many like us became known. When I did have a moment to go to the library, there just wasn’t very much out there compared to the information age we live in today!! Needless to say, I felt compelled to do my all to make this work.
A family of five is a full-time job – one would think I might have given this some consideration. Love is blind, and I was naïve, at best. The meals, cleaning, laundry, homework, activities seemed endless, and then it was Spring. It dawned on me that I did NOT have a clothesline. Thankfully, my husband had grown up in the era of freshly dried linens from a clothesline, too. So, it did not take much convincing to get one made. A few days, some newly painted and cemented poles, approximately 30 feet apart with four nicely spaced lines and Ta Da. A brand new clothesline to be enjoyed by all. Well, I’m stretching that a bit.
I cannot begin to tell you what a Godsend that beautiful clothesline was, and still is, for me. Its inaugural summer was fraught with more tears and more prayers, and with each piece of laundry I shook before hanging, I could feel a release of tension and fear that otherwise could not have been verbally expressed. I thought of that again today as I was hanging out the sheets for this week’s laundry. How grateful I am to have my clothesline…my Sanctuary. I can only imagine what the neighbors might have witnessed had we lived in town. Thankfully, we live in the country, so my erratic and fretful outbursts were never seen or heard, as far as I know. Of course, if my little son was out with me, none of that happened. My outcries and prayers were limited to his nap times. That’s not to say that I didn’t pray out loud when he was with me. I distinctly remember him handing me something from the clothes basket and my fingers touching his little hand as I asked the Dear Lord above for his guidance and love. And with the next piece and touch of his hand, thanking the Dear Lord above for such a precious gift as my son.
It’s been over 30 years now, the clothesline still stands, and we do too. That’s not to say it has been smooth sailing, there are still moments of fear and doubt, but I still have my clothesline…my sanctuary, for peace, prayers, and gratitude!
Dr J’s Comments
A delightful story about a multi-purpose, simple necessity turned luxury. I so too remember my clothesline. I had it made special by a welder in the community. It was six sided and swiveled from a center post. I loved my clothesline. Wendy’s story brought all those wonderful memories to my awareness again. The smell of fresh sheets, the easy folding of diapers and dishtowels, and a place of my own to release thoughts and emotions. I don’t have one today, but I might just need to put it on my bucket list.