Waxing Nostalgic About Clotheslines – Again

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2012

On this very day, a couple years back, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for, of all things, clotheslines. This shouldn’t surprise me. May is a difficult month for me since I lost my Mom back in 2006. With Mother’s Day and my Mom’s birthday and Memorial Day (my Mom was a Marine) all falling in the same month, it’s hard to get through May without a few rough days. Now, throw into the mix that May has been declared National Skin Cancer Awareness Month (my Mom died of malignant melanoma) and you can understand why I would basically like to crawl into bed and sleep the month of May away.

Except for one thing… May is a gorgeous month. It’s the first month, at least in Wisconsin where I grew up, that you could actually start relying on a few nice, warm days. It’s the month when Mom could trust the weather to hang out clothes and they would actually dry. So, on this last day of May, I’m crawling out of my blue funk to celebrate one of the best memories I have growing up – Mom’s Clothesline – by reposting my original observation. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you will add your comments and share your memories and feelings, too. Here it is:

Do you remember clotheslines?

It’s hard for some people to wax nostalgic about any kind of laundry, let alone having to lug heavy baskets of clothes outside to dry on lines. Line drying clothes is hard work and not often reliable – i.e. rain, sleet, and snow.

I, on the other hand, am a fool for laundry. Any way, any kind, any place. Ask my sisters who I disturbed all evening long washing and drying clothes at a family gathering. hmmmm…. yeah, a bit nuts.

One thing about doing laundry that even my sisters can’t fault me for is the romance of drying clothes outside. All of us siblings are suckers for a clothesline full of sheets, towels, work pants, aprons, and t-shirts billowing in the breeze.

What brings on this nostalgic waxing today? Summer is here. Not officially but certainly within our hearts. In my mind, that’s when we haul out the clothes pins and set our sheets a sail!

Memories of Mom with clothes pins in her apron pocket, expertly arranging the sheets, towels, and clothes so they were all strung together, are a big reason I relish the thought of drying clothes outside on a clothesline. Then the way she hung the shirts and pants in just the right way to catch the wind was a bit of engineering genius. You know what a windsock looks like at an airport? That’s how Mom got those clothes to billow.

The smell of fresh laundry dried in the sun is something you can’t put into words; and no, you can’t bottle it in fabric softener either. There’s a mysterious draw to that aroma, even for a kid. Want a kid to go to bed at night without complaint? Put sheets on the bed that have been on the clothesline all day.

“Simple pleasures for a simple mind” some may say. I say drying clothes on a clothesline is the closest thing you can get to heaven on earth.

There is some controversy in the wind about folks drying their laundry in neighborhoods with strict homeowner association rules about such things. My friend Susanne Myers, the Hillbilly Housewife, has explored this problem at some length in her blog “Remember The Clothesline.”

Susanne, like many of us, believes drying our clothes without the use of electricity is a good idea. It’s too bad these associations can’t bend their rules a bit to help homeowners save money and help us all save our earth’s resources.

Aside from those reasons, it’s the memories that make me want to see more clotheslines with laundry whipping in the breeze.

I know that just once more I’d like to run through a clothesline full of sheets and have Mom holler at me. Then, later that night, bury my face in those same sheets when she tucks me in at night.

And that’s why I’m waxing nostalgic about clotheslines.

The Clotheslinep.s. Want to enjoy more clothesline talk? This incredible book, simply called The Clothesline, offers lots of nostalgia, but also has lots of practical stuff, too. This is the kind of stuff we learned from a less complicated time, when women shared household secrets, recipes, and remedies over the back fence.

This book is filled with historic as well as contemporary photographs and illustrations, with tips for everything from creating a fun yet functional laundry room, to laundry collectibles, easy care of heirloom linens, and traditional wash-day recipes like lavender ironing water and verbena soap.

Transport yourself back to simpler times with this frugal and fun way to turn a task into an event! Click on here and buy it today.
The Clothesline – by Andrea VanSteenhouse and Irene Rawlings

p.p.s. Be sure to leave a comment below and share your own ‘clothesline memories’ with me. I’d love to hear your stories! (You can click on and read the comments on my original post here – Waxing Nostalgic About Clotheslines.)

p.p.p.s  I linked this post to a Linky-Luv Wordless Wednesday blog post at MomDot.com.  I thought the young Moms would enjoy this, too.  Go over and take a look around.

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10 Responses to
“Waxing Nostalgic About Clotheslines – Again”

  • Lisa Winkler says: May 31st, 2012 at 6:28 am

    My mother still has her clothesline and I love putting out the laundry. We had one for a while but then felt we were the only ones in a suburban NJ town with one– still love seeing them, especially when we’re cycling– they tell stories about the people in the houses! Our house now is too shaded- which is great in the hot weather– but no space for a clothesline. But I do hang some things to dry on a drying rack indoors.

  • Margo Burton says: May 31st, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Thank you for taking me back to my childhood once again. I would also get yelled at by my mother for running through the sheets on the line. I must tell you of something that happened to my sister and I concerning freshly dried bedding on the clothesline. We were settling in for a wonderful summer night snooze under freshly clothesline dried bedding when all of a sudden we felt something moving around in the sheets. After several minutes of this stopping and starting again, we disassembled our freshly dried bedding to find a grasshopper in our bedding. It also enjoyed “running” through the sheets and got trapped in the laundry. Long story short, two frightened, giggling girls will never forget the grasshopper in our freshly made bed. We still laugh about it.

  • Patricia Graefe says: May 31st, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Living in Florida has allowed me to dry my clothes outside most of the year. I love the smell and the lack of many wrinkles when the wind blows and the clothes billow. My father was a laundryman and a dry cleaner and Mom always put the wash on the line. I was taught how to wash clothes in an old wringer washer in case” my husband could not afford the new automatic washers” as my Mom told me. I love to do the laundry and horrors! I do love to iron. Now that I am retired, I really enjoy working outside in the early morning, getting the laundry out while the sun is just rising and bringing it in by noon smelling sweet and sun-warmed.

  • Patti says: May 31st, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Thank you, Patricia, for sharing your memories. I smiled at how your Mom was preparing you to be able to do the laundry even if you didn’t marry a man who could afford to buy you one of those new automatic washers. So sweet. ?

    My Mom had a wringer washer in the basement even after she got her automatic washer. She used the wringer to wash heavier loads, like rugs. She always wore big yellow rubber gloves when she was doing the washing in that wringer washer. I remember her pushing the wash through the wringer with her gloved hands and the wringer would grab the loose fingers of her gloves and there they would go… through the wringer along with the wash. It happened more than once, which makes me think she was just entertaining me, cause it sure made me laugh.

    I appreciate the time you took out of your day to stop by and comment. Please come back often. I love the company here on the blogosphere!

  • Patti says: May 31st, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Oh my goodness, Margo! THAT had to be so crazy! Yes, I’m sure that little grasshopper was enjoying the warm, cozy sheets just like you were. I can imagine that was and always will be a fun story for you and your sister to share.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, too. Please come by often and share often. I always appreciate the time it takes out of your day to spend time with me here.

  • Patti says: May 31st, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Thank you, Lisa, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I agree. Isn’t the clothesline a great storyboard?

    We can’t hang clothes out here in our condo, but I sneak a few hangers out on the balcony to drip dry stuff. When I’m back visiting family up north, I always dig in and do laundry at my sister’s house so I can enjoy hanging it out on her clothesline.

    Oh, I just thought of something. My Gramma lived in town, not in the country, so when she hung out her wash, she always hung sheets and towels facing the street, then hung her ‘unmentionables’ on the next line, and hung clothes on the next line. That way, the unmentionables were safely tucked between clothes away from viewing. I guess she didn’t want her undies to be part of a ‘storyboard’ for the folks in town. ;)

    I also remember at my Gramma’s house, laundry was done each Monday and hung out early and taken off the line as soon as it was dry. It was considered quite scandalous to leave your laundry on the line all day. If you did, the neighbor ladies might think you were LAZY. One time I remember being there and she had gotten distracted during the day and left her laundry on the line until almost dinnertime – she was mortified! I never saw her scramble so fast to get the laundry off the line. She grabbed me and we worked like crazy before anyone saw. Too funny.

    Thanks again, Lisa, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I sure love the idea of the clothesline being a ‘storyboard’ for the family living there. Cool.

  • Kate says: June 5th, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    We had a mulberry tree in our yard. When they were ripe, the birds would put black poop on the sheets and other laundry hanging on the washline. My mom would get ripping mad and threaten to go out and shoot all the birds. No worry though, we didn’t have a gun! Thanks for the memory!

  • Patti says: June 6th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you so much, Kate, for stopping by and reading. And thanks also for sharing your memory. :) Poopy sheets… oh yeah, I remember a few of those, but not too many. Now, I think black poop would be a bit more disheartening. We had a gun… I think Mom would have used it. Thanks again for sharing, Kate.

  • Lorri S says: June 6th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    We have a clothesline that I use regularly in decent weather. My mother always had one also. I remember waking up in the morning and hearing the washing machine going…

  • Patti says: June 6th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Lorri,
    Thanks for stopping by to read and share your thoughts. Isn’t it amazing what we remember, and more importantly, how those memories make us feel? I can’t have a clothesline where I am (condo) but I sure take advantage of my sister’s clothesline when I go home to visit! ;)

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