|A House in Louisiana, 1930, with clothesline on porch. (Library of Congress)|
My old clothesline has not been set up for the season. Normally, at the end of winter, one of the gentlemen of this house would tighten up the pulley system and get it ready for the spring and summer months. The clothesline is attached to the outside wall, next to my second story laundry room window. I have always loved going over to the window, enjoying the beautiful fresh air, and hanging towels, sheets, and most of our laundry out in the Vermont sunshine. It would dry very quickly, within a few hours, and have a wonderful outdoor scent. However, since my husband is not well, he is unable to fix my clothesline this year.
One day last week our electric dryer broke. (One has to laugh when faced with such happenings!) At first I had a moment of panic. (shudder) Then I realized this was nothing new. I had to remember the way things used to be, and start being creative.
In my childhood home, we had an enclosed side porch on the second story of our Massachusetts home. All during the non-winter months, we would air dry our laundry on the clothesline. This was a traditional pulley system attached next to our second story window on one end, and then attached to a large tree on the other end.
Most days in the morning my mother would say, "Get the clothes out of the washer and hang them on the line." I did this for her, not even really thinking about it. I would just pile the wet clothes into a basket and carry them to our porch. We had a small basket of clothespins set up by the window. I would carefully hang each item on the line while listening to the chirping of birds, glancing at the ships going by in the ocean (off in the distance), and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. It took a little muscle to guide the line along after each item was pinned to the rope. There was also a small sound of a squeak as it moved along.
Many times, before the supper hour, Mother would call me to bring the dry clothes back indoors. I would carefully remove the pins, place them in the small basket, shake out each item of laundry, and then fold it into the clothes basket. I could often hear Mother working in the kitchen starting the evening meal. The sun would soon be down and the work of the day was nearing its end.
These were wonderful memories I have been thinking of the last few days. Now I am without a dryer and without a clothesline and I must be inventive.
The other afternoon I did a load of laundry in the washer. Then I carefully placed each sock, each facecloth, each nightgown, each towel, and all the other items onto the backs of parlour chairs, on chair ledges, and draped over rocking chairs. I managed to set out all the socks onto the many boards on the lower sections of my grandchildren's wooden highchairs. As I worked, I loved the clean scent of the laundry. I opened the windows to let it the cool spring air. It took two days for all the clothes to finally dry. It would have been much quicker in the winter when the wood stove would be roaring and heating the clothes and the room. But the spring air dried the clothes just fine. I will learn to be patient again. I will have to remember that dry clothes will not be here in less than an hour (as the dryer would have done), but nature will do its work in its own time.
This slower pace of having to hang every piece of clothing, for every single wash, and waiting for it all to dry is nothing new. But it has awakened a sweet calmness in me that I have very much enjoyed.
At some point, one of the grown children will come by and help me set up a make-shift clothesline somewhere on the grounds of our Estate. And sometime soon, Lord willing, we will have a new dryer. In the meantime, I am making the most of old fashioned laundry methods that force one to slow down and make one contemplate the simple joy of domestic duties.
From the Archives -
Our Neglected Estate these days - The Shabby Garden.
Financial Difficulties - Living in Reduced Circumstances.
Training Children - Nobody wants to Clean a Messy House.
Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers - "Mother's Book of Home Economics."
An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email.