Archive for May, 2009

I got as much a charge out of reading everyone’s “clothesline” comments as I did out of the original post!  Philippa made a comment about “laundry trees,” so I thought I’d elaborate a bit more on that topic.

I use a “laundry tree” all winter long.  (I love this term, by the way, since it actually describes the contraption I currently have.)  I used to use a “butterfly rack,” which had “wings” that unfolded and could be supported by brackets, all of which supported one washload; that lasted me for many years, till my grandson decided to use it as a jungle gym.  (He was about two at the time.)  At that point I went looking online for a substitute, and found this laundry tree at Williams-Sonoma.  I must have gotten the last one, because it’s no longer featured.  (Silly people.)

Anyway, the “tree” supports one full load of laundry.  It’s about six feet high, which means the top racks are taller than I am, and I have to stretch to reach them; but what I especially like about this “tree” is that I can hang sheets from it, if they are folded in fourths, so for the first time ever, I can hang all my laundry off this thing.  Winter or summer, I do one load a day, though when the kids were home, I sometimes upped that to two loads.

When I do whites, I put all the “unmentionables” on the inside (I’m just that old-fashioned about underwear), and things like T-shirts and sweatshirts on the outside, so everything in between is covered over nicely.  The rack actually stands in my kitchen, behind the kitchen table; people who know me know about my “idiot-syncrasies,” and those who don’t — well, if you object, don’t come visiting.

Always an early riser, I’d have my washing on the line (or the rack) by 8:30 am the latest; when I got a job that began at 8:00 am, I just got up earlier and put my laundry on first thing.  Last year, I got hit with a double whammy:  more abdominal surgery, which meant that I couldn’t lift more than five pounds at once, and the Summer-That-Wasn’t, which all of us in the Northeast remember:  That was the year that Mother Nature confused us with the Pacific Northwest, so we got all their rain, and they got all our heat.  I think it rained throughout June, July, and August, except (of course) for the two weeks I was at the Summer School in Jordanville.

Anyway, under those two constrictions, and with no electric or gas dryer, I was forced to hang laundry on the laundry tree in the kitchen, and discovered, to my amazement — that it dried just fine.  Took a little longer than in the winter — in the winter, because the heating system dries the house out so much, things can be dry in six to eight hours — but every 24 hours, I was able to fold dry stuff and hang out more wet stuff.

So I am completely liberated from slavery to a dryer and its attendant horrors, like remembering to clean out the lint filter from time to time.  I don’t know what I’ll do when I get too old to hang out laundry.  Probably just go into assisted living….    😉

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I’ve done enough ranting about clotheslines that a good friend sent me this via e-mail. I have her permission to post it here.

Another friend to whom I sent this, who grew up some ten miles away from me (but Brooklyn is like a foreign country, if you’re from Queens) wrote back and said, “This brought back so many memories!” But I bet one of them wasn’t of our mothers washing the line before they hung out the clothes — with lines that could only be strung either from the back porch to a pole at the very back of a minuscule yard, or actually hung between buildings, trying to wash the line would have been suicidal. 😉

THE BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES (if you don’t know what clotheslines are, better skip this):

1. You had to wash the clothes line before hanging any clothes–walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines…

2. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang “whites” with “whites,” and hang them first.

3. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders – always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?

4. Wash day on a Monday! . . . Never hang clothes on the weekend, or Sunday, for Heaven’s sake!

5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your “Unmentionables” in the middle (perverts & busybodies, ya know!)

(Another NYC note: Not really possible with one or two lines strung out from the back porch–it was acceptable to hang out men’s unmentionables, but women’s were always dried on a rack in the bathtub.)

6. It didn’t matter if it was sub zero weather . . . Clothes would “Freeze-dry.”

(And indeed they did! Something I discovered early on was that if I left my wash out for a couple of days, eventually it would thaw enough that it actually dried, and the softness was incredible.)

7. Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were “tacky!”

(My mother-in-law always left her pins on the lines, and my husband still does. What that’s about, I don’t know.)

8. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.

(Still do that–even with just two of us in the house!)

9. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.

(Is there any other way?!)

10. IRONED? Well, that’s a whole other subject!


A clothesline was a news forecast to neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep when clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link, for neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the “fancy sheets” and towels upon the line;
You’d see the “company table cloths” with intricate designs.
The line announced a baby’s birth from folks who lived inside –
As brand new infant clothes were hung out carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown!
It also told when illness struck, as extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too, haphazardly were strung.
It also said, “Gone on vacation now” when lines hung limp and bare.
It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon if wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows, and looked the other way ….
But clotheslines now are of the past, for dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess!
I really miss that way of life.   It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best by what hung on the line!

Amen to that!

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That’s what it sounds like outside my little New Hampshire home.  It’s been sirens all evening.  Last Friday, the girl who lives across the street had a royal screaming match with her ex-boyfriend, both drunk as skunks, with the f-word in liberal evidence.  Two weeks ago, we had a guy screaming at his girlfriend (same house, different couple), “ROCK-SAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!  OPEN THE F*** UP!!!!!!!!” and repeatedly battering the door.  I don’t know how it ever stood up to his pounding.  (The irony was that the girl was out walking her dog, and came back to this penny opera.)  Then there are the motorcycles from the biker bar around the corner.  There’s a muffler law in this city, but you’d never know it.

When we lived in New York, the Long Island Expressway was a stone’s throw away from our kitchen windows.  The swish of traffic was ceaseless.  It was quietest at 3:00 am, but you could still hear that swish.  And it was still quieter than “quiet little rural New Hampshire.”  Sigh.  When we moved up here, we could hear cows across the highway at 5:30 am.  Haven’t heard them in at least 15 years — people are on the road at 4:00, on their way down to the Big City (Boston).  My husband is one of them!

I don’t like gratuitous change.  I don’t like people moving up here for the “tax advantages” (no sales tax or state income tax), and although an income tax is anathema to most New Hampshirites, I’ve been known to say I favor it because maybe it will keep the Massachusetts folks from moving up — and they reluctantly agree.  They don’t like the way this area is changing, either.

Meanwhile, I see I’m down by three subscribers on Bloglines.  Well, I know I lead a quiet, boring weblife, but still.  <sniff>

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Thanks to all for Happy Anniversary wishes.  I just thought you’d all get a kick out of knowing how we actually spent the day.

After church we headed out to the coast of Maine.  Some years ago — both kids were still living at home — we had lunch at a very nice restaurant right on the coast, next to a lighthouse.  It was a grey, rainy day, so the surf was up, and smashing against the rocks right in front of the restaurant — it was just a great place.  Forty years is a pretty big deal, and I asked Himself if we could go there again.

The restaurant is no longer there.  In fact, there is no sign that it was ever there.

So we spent the next two hours driving up and down the Maine coast, looking for a nice romantic spot.  Now, keep in mind that I have not had breakfast, either, since I wanted to receive Communion, so I’m about to faint from hunger — but we both wanted some place with good food and good atmosphere.  Finally, around 2:30, Himself says, “The heck with it — let’s just go to that ’50s diner out by Sunshine!”

“That ’50s diner” is the kind of place that was everywhere 50 years ago.  Chrome chairs with those tacky bright-red plastic seat covers that ripped hopelessly the second they came into contact with a child’s shoe buckle.  Chrome tables topped with formica, into which had been baked futuristic science-fiction emblems like starbursts and rocket ships.  Booths covered in that same tacky red plastic.  It even has a jukebox that plays stuff from the ’50s (and ’60s).

That’s where we had dinner.  Well, the food was good, anyway.  Ah, romance!

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Forty years.

We hear about the people of Israel wandering in the desert for forty years and think, “Holy cow, how did they ever stand it?!”  Think about it — a baby born at the beginning of that journey would be middle-aged (by today’s standards!) by the time it was over.

For that matter, think about how the average human changes between birth and forty years of age.

That’s how long we’ve been married.

Yep, Himself and I celebrate our fortieth year of wedded bliss tomorrow.  Now, I must be honest and note that I don’t know if Himself would agree about the “wedded bliss” part, but I don’t think he would necessarily disagree:  I’m recalling the night we were watching TV and something came up about marriage (probably an ad), and I turned to him and said, “Well, we’ve been married long enough.”  Pause.  “No, not long enough,” I added, as if it were a revelation, and he said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”  When it’s good, there is no “long enough.”

So, in the same sense that Liturgy is an action that takes place outside of Time, in Kairos not Chronos, that makes our wedding day a day outside of time, too — I want this to go on forever.  May God grant it so!

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Today, I washed my windows for the first time in five years.

I take no responsibility for this execrable lapse.  Five years ago, the city decided to dig up a perfectly usable main street — the one in front of our house — and repave it.  Mind you, in this city there are streets that haven’t been redone in the nearly twenty-four years we’ve lived here, and they look it.  (And feel it.)  There was nothing remarkably wrong with Main Street:  no potholes, few cracks, and if there was no curbing between sidewalk and road, well, welcome to New Hampshire.  In this state, that’s the norm.  Heck, we still have dirt roads.

But no, Main Street had to be paved, so paved it was.  Dug down to the bedrock, new sewer pipes installed, re-gravelled, re-hot-topped, smoothed down, curbing and drainage installed — it’s gorgeous to walk on.  But the project took two years, and you must admit that anyone crazy enough to open the windows when the main drag through town consists of dirt is more than crazy enough.

Then there was 2006.  We all know what happened that year.  Well, yes, the surgery took place in August, so theoretically I could have washed my windows in May, except that that was one of those times when it rained through most of May and June, and a good bit of July, too.

I was still recuperating in 2007 (another exceptionally rainy year, with record flooding in this state).  And last year I had more surgery.  Let me tell you, I was already reluctant to look out the windows in 2006, and by last year I would cringe every time I tried to peer through the film of grit and grime.

So here we are, a sunny Saturday in May, temperatures just right for working out of doors and — most importantly — for hanging the curtains out to dry.  So promptly at 9:00 a.m., I set to work, and worked straight through till noon.

Only one problem.  There are only three windows done.  The problem now is that, after two surgeries, climbing onto a stepstool to take down the curtains is unbelievably difficult.  Moving the furniture that’s in front of the windows, which before I would have done without batting an eyelash — also not to be risked, now that I have a hernia thanks to the doctor who’d rather go on vacation than hang around to make sure her patient was recuperating well.  (I mean, she could have postponed the surgery for three weeks, ya think?!)

But those windows are sparkling, and the curtains have that fresh, outdoorsy smell that you only get with line-dried laundry.  I really hope this weather holds for a couple more weeks.  I mean, I know we need rain, and like most folks in this part of the world, I hope we get a few nice showers in between our sunny days.  I just hope they fall on days when I have to work.    😉

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