Back in the day when all six of my kids were still at home, I wrote this piece. It’s published in my book Southside Glimmers. I still use a clothesline, and sometimes my kids still help me hang out laundry. And yes, bed sheets are still the best when they’ve been hung on a clothesline to dry.
More Than Just a Clothesline
Summer Saturday nights were the best for sleeping. After playing outside most of the day, we’d ride our bikes after supper while our newly washed hair dried. Then we’d take turns missing out on our favorite improvised game, “No Bears are Out Tonight!” while Mama braided our hair.
Later, tired from work and play, we’d troop off to bed and crawl between those newly laundered sheets. Ah, I can still remember the crisp feeling to my skin as I closed my eyes! What bliss — the clean fragrance of sheets that had hung on the clothesline to dry! We’d drift off to Never-Never-Land buoyed by the feeling and fragrance of fresh, clean bodies and beds.
I still use a clothesline today. I still love that fragrance and the sweet bliss of clean skin against air-dried sheets. It feels the best after a day of hard, honest work.
I believe in clotheslines. I can list all the reasons: less expense than a clothes dryer, natural bleaching of spots, less wear on clothing, and no waiting on one load before another one can be dried. Using a clothesline also provides physical exercise. Bending and reaching provides more agility than tossing clothes into a clothes dryer. Furthermore, being outside on a sunny day helps clear my mind.
On some days, I just need some space, and the clothesline is a wonderful refuge. While it’s true that a closed bathroom door is like a magnet to kids, a clothesline repels them. So when I need a refuge, I skip the bathroom. I know that as soon as I close the bathroom door, someone will need me at once.
Instead, I head to the clothesline. As I shake out clothes and pin them on the line, I can sort out my feelings and figure out what’s bugging me. As I bend and stretch, I have time to figure out what the real problem is beneath the surface. I’ve even come up with some pretty good ideas for discipline at my clothesline!
Yet there’s another reason I believe in clotheslines.
On any day my kids are home, I’ll grab one of them to come with me. They don’t know it, but they often get chosen because of their disposition.
Sometimes I haven’t been able to connect with that one, or perhaps it’s because a child needs to be removed from the others for a little while. Sometimes I have a concern or a question that I don’t want the others to hear; other times I know there are pent-up emotions waiting to explode.
And sometimes I just want to say thanks for a good deed or an exceptional attitude.
So I grab a kid to help me hang up clothes. It’s a safe place. No one else wants to hang around for fear of being put to work. And there’s something about working side by side that creates an environment of camaraderie. It’s safer there to spill one’s guts than it would be sitting across the table from me.
I’ve tried the “Let’s have a glass of iced tea and have a talk” number.
One look at those defiant eyes, and I know there’s no point in asking, “What’s the matter?”
That’s why I believe in my clothesline. The younger ones hand the articles to me to hang on the line. The older ones work side by side with me, pinning clothes to the line as we work together. No matter which child I’ve nabbed, we’re still working side by side.
That’s when it happens. I’m not sure I can explain why or how it works. I just know it does. My kids open up to me there, alone, at the clothesline. I hear about friends and events, disagreements and concerns, inadequacies and failures. I’m grilled about what I said or didn’t say, what I said I’d do but didn’t do. We agree or agree to disagree.
It’s funny how all these years they’ve thought I was just too lazy to do it by myself.
That’s because I’ve never hung up my shingle by the clothesline: Therapy while you work: hang up your cares along with your clothes.
Somehow, working outside together clears our minds. We’re close enough we can talk without others listening. We might not solve all the world’s problems there at the clothesline. But we’re starting to solve the ones here at home, there at the clothesline, alone.
On Saturday night, the clothesline is empty, taking a break for the first day of the new week. Saturday nights are still the best for sleeping. That’s because there are clean, fresh sheets on the beds. Maybe it’s also because, as I slip between the sheets, I remember connecting with my kids in conversations at the clothesline.