The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

July 22, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

All right. Attack my politics if you must. Question my values. Critique my writing. But leave my clothesline alone!

An article in this morning's Star Tribune discusses the fact that "solar drying" of clothing is considered tacky in some areas, and is completely verboten in others. This is a quivering shaft in my laundry basket.

Yes, Virginia, there ARE clotheslines. Even now. But you must look hard to find them in some parts of town. I believe there are two of them in our neighborhood, and one of them is mine.

My childhood was clothesline-centric. Summer visits to Fargo to see my grandparents, who lived in an apartment. Gramma and I would do laundry in the spooky bowels of the building. Then we would take the elevator up six stories (a high-rise in those days) to the roof.

Stepping into the sunshine after all that interior gloom was every bit as mood-altering as a Rocky Mountain high. Then, with straight wooden clothespins, we began the loving labor of hanging up all that water-heavy laundry. Towels, sheets, table cloths, Grampa's enormous grundies, aprons, Gramma's dresses, my child-sized duds. Too water-logged at first to flap in the wind. But time would take care of that.

When we returned in the afternoon to fetch it, our laundry (Gramma's and mine) had magically transformed to lightness, snapping smartly in what by then was a brisk summer breeze. We began gathering our garments and linen, sneaking an occasional sniff at their sun-drenched dryness.

We folded everything carefully and stacked the sun-crisped laundry in Gramma's wicker clothes basket. Sheets were simpler then. No contour code to crack. Just fold in half repeatedly, until they were small enough to put away.

When everything had been taken down, Gramma would hoist up the basket, pooch out her hip and rest it there for the journey back down to the closets. I got to carry the clothespin bag.

I went cold turkey on clotheslines when we moved from St. Louis Park to Burnsville half a lifetime ago. The house we bought didn't have one and I succumbed to the siren song of the gas dryer. Our sheets went limp and the linen closet reeked of synthetic sweetness. When I wanted to air-dry something, I draped it over the back yard fence'"a risky proposition when the neighbor's Corgi was on the prowl.

The next house in Burnsville was in a high-end area. I sometimes refer to that era as doing time in the big house. I suspect my neighbors there would have hustled up a posse if a clothesline had appeared among them, though there was no formal covenant forbidding such a low-life contraption. And since laundry rooms were by then on the main living level of the house, it became even easier to toss things into the dryer.

Now I have a clothesline once again. Don't use it for everything, I must confess, and rarely in the bone-crunching cold of winter. Not crazy about crunchy underwear and towels. But I love seeing our sheets flapping in the wind in the general direction of the compost pile, like signal flags. Altogether different from the tangle of things in the dryer.

I fold everything up the way Gramma taught me. I've got the hip pooch down pat. And I still carry the clothespins.

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Marilyn (not verified) | July 22, 2006 - 11:08am

I have always loved hanging my clothes out to dry in the warmth of sun and breath of fresh air. For half the year I live in a townhouse community that forbids me to hang clothes outdoors. However, where there is a will there is a way - or at least half way. In the garage I have a clothesline situated as close to the open door as possible sooo...
An "inconvenient truth" but it works!


Murph12 (not verified) | July 24, 2006 - 11:32pm

Maybe we're all returning to clotheslines -- let it hang, save energy, smell the difference.