Flapping in the Breeze

When I was a little girl,  laundry was an never-ending chore.  Did you ever see laundry for eleven people?  No drier, so all the laundry got hung out on the line.  Lucky for

Of course Grandma's washer was in the Basement; that's where all washing machines were kept.

us, we had an automatic washing machine; Grandma had a wringer washer at her house.  Still and all, there was something about laundry, the way it smelled coming from the line, the snap of the clean clothes, the  folded laundry, all neatly stacked.  There’s a sense of accomplishment when it’s done.

Grandma let me help with the laundry at her house.  That wringer washer was super fun.  She filled one tub with soapy water and agitated the laundry back and forth, back and forth.  Then the clothes went through the wringer into the rinse tub.  If you ever saw a wringer washer, you for sure would know what that saying, ‘don’t get your tit in a wringer,’ means.    I didn’t even have tits, and I could feel them hurting.  Tits was a naughty word anyway, unless I was talking about a titmouse.  Then it was okay, otherwise I said teats for cows, or bowls for ladies.  Grandma said I had to be really careful and only put the clothes in the wringer with the wooden spoon, or my finger could get broken off.  Sometimes shirt buttons just popped right off and flew across the room, if they hit the wringer just right,, and once I got the spoon too close and it snapped it right in two.  To tell the truth, those buttons popping off was a lot of fun, until Grandma showed me how to sew buttons back on, then I stopped liking it so much.  Grandma said if my shirt got caught, I would go through the wringer, too.

After the rinsing tub, Grandma reversed the wringer and I put them back through , then they were all ready to hang on the clothesline.  Mom told me once, when she was a kid, Grandma was really sick and in the hospital.  When she got home, she went to the basement to do some laundry.  “Just holler if you need any help,”  Gene said, and he and Mom went upstairs.  After about a half-hour went by, the heard a blood-curdling scream from the basement.  They ran down so fast, they almost fell over each other, sure Grandma got something stuck in that ringer.  Grandma was just standing there, grinning from ear to ear.

“Well, you said to holler,” she said.  I tell you, that Grandma of mine, she was sure some kidder.  Now I knew where Uncle Gene got some of his ideas.

I think Mom spent most of her day hanging clothes on the line, until pretty soon, she thought I was tall enough to learn.  Here’s some important things about hanging clothes  on the line that I learned:

  1. Volunteer to hang diapers, that’s the easiest to hang and the easiest to fold.  Next is sheet, but those are kind of big, so it’s hard not to drag them on the ground.
  2. Overlap just a tinch, so the clothes still dry, but you can double up on clothes pins;
  3. Go ahead and sort the socks while you hang them, then you can roll the pairs together when you take them down.  This saves time on the folding side.  Socks are no fun to fold, and for some reason, there are always a slew of odd socks.
  4. Hang the underwear on the inside lines, so no boys   see you unmentionables (that’s what Grandma calls them) hanging out to dry;
  5. Hang the shirts from the bottom side seams, so a breeze will blow them open, that way the wrinkles almost all blow away, and on a good day, they will be dry in half an hour, making room for the next load.  Be careful, though, if you do this with t-shirts, you will get to wear them for several more years ’cause they will keep stretching out to the next size;
  6. Hang dress pants by the hem, with all the seams matching together.  Mom got some pants-stretchers for Dad’s pants, that almost creased them, so they hardly needed any ironing.
  7. Watch for rain, ’cause if those clothes on the line get wet, it will take forever to get them dry; they’ll be a whole lot wetter than when they came out of the washer;
  8. Hang all the itsy-bitsy stuff, like bibs and baby socks, all together at the end of the line, another thing that makes the folding chore easier.
  9. Get Little Kids to help get stuff off the line.  Mostly they will like this, especially if you throw laundry on their heads.  Be careful about grass stains, that will make Mom mad.
  10. Snap each piece before hanging.  I have no idea what this does, but it sounds neat, and it feels good, and all that clean fresh smell from the detergent fills up the air.

The only time I hated laundry was in the winter time.  First of all, wet clothes were super-duper hard to hang on the line ’cause my fingers got cold, and if I kept my mittens on, they got wet and my fingers ended up just as cold and stingy-red.  Second, the clothes never got dry.  Ever.  All day long, and they came in frozen, stiff as a board, and then I had to hang everything over the register to dry.  Winter clothes never, ever come out soft, like other times of the year.  To tell the truth, I never did have much use for winter.  It seemed like all the work was doubled-up and miserable in the winter.  Except for ice-cream making.  Winter was the best time for that.

Nowadays, lots of places in suburbia have rules against clotheslines.  I’m not allowed to hang clothes out.  I think it’s too bad.  There’s something friendly-looking about laundry hanging on the line, flapping in the breeze.  Maybe it’s because a clothesline full of sheets and shirts and underwear just shouts out to the whole wide world, “Look at me, I’m just like you.”

8 thoughts on “Flapping in the Breeze

  1. In India..we didn’t have a Washing machine, dryer or even a wringer…NOTHING at all..for ages!! In fact, there are places where we still do all the washing by the river side or a hand-pump; soaping first and then brushing-rubbing-scrubbing(!?!) and even beating-up poor clothes with a bat(we call it ‘thaapi’) before rinsing them thoroughly and then snap them to hang them up on the clothesline…and while traveling, I still see sometimes clothing drying even on bushes or branches of the trees! My mum did laundry in a traditional way of dipping clothes in a big tub(after we had washing powder introduced), I remember the place with colorful tubs and buckets of varied sizes, filled or half-filled with water, each one specifically for dipping plus washing, for 1st,2nd and 3rd rinse..finally snapping them to hang up the line where it shouts unheard “I am just like you.” 🙂 She still so many times does the same only using the ‘fully-automatic’ WM for spinning clothes or washing but no rinsing as she thinks that a lot of water is wasted in the process!!

    • Yes, Nikki, I found many pictures of laundry hanging on the line in India, all looking just like I remembered here on the farm. The only difference: those brightly colored wash basins.

  2. Ho! what a beautiful antiques I do remember how wringer washer was a thank you you are good. : Clothes can wrap around the wringer and be torn,If it does, an article of the wash may
    wrap several times around a roller before it is noticed; unwinding such a
    piece is often difficult, sometimes impossible without removing a roller.

  3. I love the washing machine story. We had one in our cellar, and I have written of it in my book, “Growing up Italian; Grandfather’s Fig Tree and Other Stories.” I will put that story on my blog sometime in late July. I hope you might have a chance to read it.
    Keep writing. Well done.

  4. Watching that video brought back memories that made me grit my teeth. My mother was so particular about her laundry and it never failed that I would get something tangled up in the wringer and sweat bullets trying to get it out without damage. It never failed, she would come down the basement and catch me in the act. Mother’s do have “eyes in the back of their heads” (and through walls and floors too.

  5. I just hung clothes out this morning. I love the act of hanging them. It just feels so good and for some reason it’s like a prayer to me. I always feel so grateful for all of God’s gifts especially the simple ones.

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