Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Wash is on the Line

There was something quintessentially "summer" about our back yard last evening. We had eaten our supper at the table in the sun room, as has become our habit, and My Darling had begun to work on the house when we had finished our meal. The children were in the yard, chattering, laughing, swatting at bugs and happily digging in the sand--carving out a road here, planting twig trees there. Their bare spindly legs were speckled by the evidence of the resident mosquitoes, the skin of their feet and hands covered with the dust of the day. Crickets were chirping, flies and bumblebees were buzzing around, and as I sat in the sun room and read my book, the evening sun was warming the plywood beneath my bare feet. It was hot and muggy, so we had plugged a fan in to move the air in the unfinished room, and it was just exactly right for a bit of a lazy summer evening. The only thing that could have made it any better would have been a big glass of sweet tea with lemon. My water with lemon was lovely, though. Soon I, too, found myself absently swatting at the flies which occasionally landed on my knee or foot.

And in the background, flapping brightly and gently in the occasional breeze, the wash was hanging on the line.

I am not in a hurry to get wash from the line. Even when it's raining, unless it's something that I need or that is prone to sun-fading, I allow things to stay on the line until we need that place on the line. Let it soak up the smell of the rain, the subtle scent of the nearby flowers, the slight aromas of a summer day.

A bed made with sheets which have been hung on the line is almost guaranteed to give you a better night's sleep. Clean little bodies, freshly scrubbed in the bath, seem to fairly glow when rubbed dry with a towel that was dried on the line. And for some reason, the laundry even seems to get put away a little faster when it's been brought in from hanging outside in the sunshine. If ever I discover just why that is, I'll be sure to make an emergency post for all the world to see!

I received a call the other day from the dear young friend who had loaned me her maternity clothing. She had bad news and good news. The bad news was that she needs her clothes back--so of course the good news is that she is due about 9 weeks after we are. Luckily, I haven't really settled into anything that I can't part with--some of the things in her collection were items I had loaned to her, and apart from those, there are only one or two pairs of pants that I've been wearing with any regularity. (I've been spending a lot of time in yoga pants and pajama bottoms.)

I'm also just not worried about it, regardless of the need to know that everything is supplied, because another friend gave me her entire collection. I picked it up the other day, and found that I had to wash it right away.

It is not a myth that pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell--the wrong odor can turn my stomach with absolutely no notice. Laundry detergent is one of the worst offenders. I can't even walk down the aisle at the store--the fragrances that are added to cover the smell of chemicals in those boxes and bottles make my head swim, and call the Nausea Bug with a bullhorn. For this reason (and many others) we use only Shaklee laundry products. There is a very light scent to the gigantic box that we purchase, but it is so faint that most people can't even smell it on fabric.

This sensitivity to smells can be a real problem when borrowing maternity wear from someone, especially if they use detergent, liquid softener, and a sheet in the dryer.

It becomes less of a problem if you hang the wash on the line. It stayed out--I kid you not--for two entire days. Overnight, even. But that smell is all but gone, and I am happy. It didn't rain while that particular load was hanging out, but the shirts and pants still smell like's very refreshing.

I remember when I was a kid that the neighbors had a wringer washer. In the summer months, it was often outside under the grape arbor, where Mrs. S. would hum or sing hymns as she patiently fed the clothing of six children and a hard working husband through the metal rollers. Each item was dropped gently into the basket beside her, and when it was full, she would carry it to the line. I don't believe there was ever a day without wash on that line.

We loved linen day--when the sheets and towels from the week were washed and hung out. We would lose ourselves between the long rows of sheets, calling out to one another and watching beneath the patterned fabrics for the mulberry stained feet that would give us away. We raced from one end to the other, feeling the cool damp air moving across our hot sweaty faces, being careful not to mar the clean sheets with our grubby hands.

The sweetness of youth, I think, can be made just a little sweeter with the passing of time and the blurring of pleasant memories...but there is still something that draws me to walk between the rows of freshly damp sheets and towels hanging on the clothes line. I love to see my own children darting in and out of the legs of jeans and letting the socks brush along the tops of their heads, playing innocently among the wash. It's one of those ordinary things that is somehow extraordinary just on its own merits.

I suppose I should go hang the next load of wash on the line.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I didn't grow up with clothes on the line (wasn't allowed in my neighborhood), but I'm enjoying it now. I'm looking forward to when I have a house with a yard and I can hang more than 1 load up at a time. If scents bother you, you might consider making your own detergent. It's not difficult to do, and it costs around 5 cents a load.