Clothesline takes her back

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2011

December 26 was a windy, cold, dreary day. As I sat waiting for the heater to warm up the inside of my car, a few snowflakes drifted by. Then as I pulled away and headed for my destination, I noticed two back yard clotheslines loaded with children’s clothing flapping in the breeze. I thought it rather unusual that someone had put out a washing on such a cold day. It reminded me how thankful I should be for my clothes dryer.

That brief glance at the fluttering clothes made me think of the most frustrating clothesline I ever had. It was one of those circular kinds that turned when the wind blew. It sat in the back yard of a house we purchased in Cookeville, Tenn., placed there by the previous owner. I was thrilled to have my own clothesline, having moved from a mobile home park where I had to get my wash on the shared lines early to claim a spot. That circular line worked out fine until the wind blew and slapped wet sheets and clothes right into my face as I stood either hanging or removing clothes from it. It was bad enough in the summer, but when the weather got cold and blustery and those icy cold, wet clothes and sheets slammed into me, it was time to buy our first dryer. I think I was prouder of that new appliance than I would have been of a new car back then.

For a long time upon removing those clothes from the dryer, my thoughts rushed back to when I had assigned clotheslines on certain days in the basement of our military quarters in Bamberg, Germany. We could hang clothes beginning at 7 a.m. in the basement on our appointed days and had to remove them by that time the next morning. We had blowers in the basement, but the rules called for us to turn them off at 9 p.m. It took a long time to dry fatigues and khaki uniforms, plus the rest of a family wash. The building coordinators were supposed to make sure those blowers were off at nine, but someone usually slipped back downstairs around 10 p.m. and turned them back on.

During that time, I was washing diapers almost every day regardless of my assigned wash and dry days. I took them upstairs to our apartment and hung them on a little wooden rack, draped them over coat hangers strung here and there, and even laid a few on the radiators that heated our rooms.

I always enjoyed hanging my clothes outside in spring and summer, but in recent years, I’ve by-passed that touch of pleasant sunshine and birdsong. I now depend on my dryer exclusively, except for stringing a few things around the house now and then. Somehow, I just can’t stop thinking about those clothes I saw fluttering in the wind on one of the coldest days of the yearC