Hanging the Clothes Out to Dry

Remembering Granny and Grandfather' house

There was nothing like climbing into bed at Granny and Grandfather’s house with fresh, crisp, folded sheets to snuggle in with.  Granny never owned a dryer. They could afford one, but perhaps she liked the lingering scents from line-dried clothes and peace of hanging out the clothes to dry year around.

For a good part of the year, they would hang outside. Standing on their back porch, there was a clothesline with a roller that enabled you to roll the line in close to you.

When hanging the clothes up, you could bring up a basket of freshly washed clothes from the basement into the back porch, which served as a larder of sorts, filled with items like potatoes and onions, pots and pans.

Opening the door to the porch, the clothesline hung by the back stairs. The wooden clothespins were neatly stored in baskets on the porch by the other dry goods. Some had metal hinges, others seemed to be solid wood.

Granny showed me how to hang the clothes up: place a pin on top of the corner of the shirt, roll the clothesline a little, pin the corner of the shirt. Add another shirt right on top of the second corner of the other shirt.  One pin could hang half of two items.

Even at a young age, I could reach the clothes that spanned across a good part of their yard, because of the stairs that you stood on to roll the clothesline.

Granny's clothes pinsThere is something peaceful, calm, and quiet about hanging up clothes.  Of course, you would have to pay attention to the weather forecast, because storms could quickly ruined a days worth of drying.

The smell! The smell to me the summertime. It’s fresh, crisp, and there’s nothing like it.  Artificial softeners have tried to mimic the smell, and perhaps some have come close.  But it’s not just the smell of that brings back fond memories, it’s the way the clothes, towels, and the sheets felt.

Sure, socks and underwear were a little crunchier than we were used to,  and jeans seemed like they took forever to dry.  To this day, I love crunchy towels. I read once that towels that have not been dried in the dryer actually absorb more water then towel dried inside using electricity.

Hanging the clothes on the line gave us a sense of tradition, of the way people had taken care of their items for hundreds and hundreds of years   It taught us about frugality as well, not only because we were saving money from not using electricity or a gas dryer, because we also learned quickly to re-wear those jeans that at home we might’ve tossed aside after donning them for a couple of hours.

The other day, it was finally warm and dry enough to hang our own linens out on the clothesline. We have nothing fancy, just a line going from one tree to another.  We can only hang one load of clothes at a time, so on the days where we do a lot of laundry, at best we can perhaps, if I had a really warm and dry day, hang up two loads of clothes.

I wondered as I hung the linens the other day, as peace was filling me. The serenity of the slow repetitive motion, I wondered  what we are not giving our children  by not teaching the simple old-fashioned things in life like hanging clothes  on a line.

In this fast paced world of high-speed Internet, smart phones, Netflix, movies on demand, how much are we losing?

I know there are times when we definitely don’t.  After using my smart phone for my business line for a few years, I remember the first time we went camping and I had no phone or Internet service.

Holy moly. I felt like I was an addict withdrawing,  and indeed I was. What if someone needed to make an appointment? I worried. What if a student had a question?

Would I lose business by not answering my phone for a few days?

In some instances, I’m sure that is quite possible. Especially younger people want answers, and they want it now.

Seemingly gone are the days when you rode your bikes for hours and hours and didn’t come home until your parents called for you or it got dark out.

We miss those days, and that is of the reasons why we like to go camping.  It’s time to slow down, reflect, and live more simply,  if only for a few days.

There are bicycles, races, mud, and adventures.  Dirty, wet clothes hang out a line in between trees.

It’s kind of funny that the things our grandparents and ancestors did naturally because that is the way they lived is now a way that some of us seek actively.

It’s a time when birds chirp, the rivers roll by, and freshly scented crisp sheets adorn our beds. A time of simplicity

I will forever be grateful to Granny for showing me how to hang clothes on the line, for each year when I am able to do so, it brings back great experiences and remembrances of our times we spent with them each year in the suburbs of New York.

And now it’s time for us to think of what we can hand out to our own children and our grand children. What kind of adventures or traditions can we keep and pass down to our future?

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One thought on “Hanging the Clothes Out to Dry

  1. Lovely memories; there is nothing that smells as good as clothes and sheets dried on the clothesline!

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