I’ve moved around a bit so far in my life and have adapted to a variety of locales. There are, however, three kinds of places I’d prefer not to dwell — somewhere it never snows, a Heaven without dogs, and a home without a clothesline.
A few more weeks and the outdoor drying season will be over; and though I line-dry indoors throughout the year, from late April to early October, I happily let Mother Nature lend a hand with my laundry chores.
You find all sorts of good things when you look past the limits of machine drying. For instance, there’s nothing like the crisp feel and smell of sheets and shirts kissed by the sun and a warm summer breeze. Without burning kilowatts or braving bleaches, the designs on t-shirts stay sharp and unpeeled longer; white blouses return to their hangers just a touch whiter; and, there’s that one last November chill-chasing whiff of May when the winter coats come out of their summer storage bags.
By letting it all hang out, in my small way I’m doing my part to save the planet, one laundry load at a time. On a particularly memorable pre-vacation Saturday a few years back, I washed, hung, and folded six completely dry, super-capacity loads without ever turning on the man-made dryer. How “green” is that?
But like they say on tv, wait — there’s more!
As I see it, my fellow clothespinners and I are preserving healthful, venerable traditions in a world that moves too fast and changes too quickly. While I have no intention of beating my husband’s dress shirts on a rock in a nearby stream, I rather like having to put the busy on hold for a few minutes in order to step out of doors and enjoy a breath of fresh air and pinch of sunshine as I pin up and take down the morning’s wash.
Putting things on the line also connects me to my childhood, reviving memories of my mother, who in true 1960s-style housewifery did a load of laundry seven days a week. I remember how from just a few minutes a day filling and clearing the clothesline, her face and forearms would be tan weeks before the rest of us even began to freckle. When the weather was too wet or cold she’d get creative. Panties, jockey shorts, and socks were hung here and there around the house, and the banister in the living room was festooned with shirts, pants, and skirts. Many a frozen-stiff pair of jeans could be found cozily thawing over the shower curtain rod on a February afternoon following a brief, but frosty drip outdoors.
Like the one my husband rigged for me between two fence posts, I grew up with a linear drying system. My mother’s was a nylon coated line secured by two adjacent crabapple trees in the back yard. Our neighbors on either side had umbrella-style dryers, and while I may have admired their sophistication, those new-fangled gadgets could never serve as an emergency volleyball or badminton net.
I keep hearing about communities that ban outside clotheslines for aesthetic reasons. It’s ironic that such an environmentally sound practice should be looked down on by some of the same folks who champion countless other worthy eco-causes. In our own family, it’s become a minor mission of mine to educate and encourage the next generation in the art of air drying.
Hopefully, by the time our children are in the housing market, they’ll be able to find a truly enlightened place to call home — the kind where there are four seasons, loads of pets, and plenty of backyard clotheslines.
From her Woodsboro home base, Susan also writes also writes for The Frederick-News Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — after the clothes are brought in.