I aim to pay homage to my mother(a day late) with this post.
Nothing major. Just a piece of white nylon rope that I stretched between two trees behind my house, a span that runs the width of my tiny backyard.
I did this because I’m green-washed and cheap. Since I live in Florida, where every day the sun shines, the birds chirp and Snow White kneels in my parched grass and summons Jay birds to her fingertips, I see no reason why I can’t save some money (and the environment) by running my dryer a little less. Not to mention the fact that I love clotheslines, which is where my mom comes into play.
My mom can work a clothesline like nobody’s business.
Growing up I used to stand beside her and hand her wooden clothespins as she pinched sheets on our clothesline, or draped my father’s heavy jeans over two lines at once so they wouldn’t sag to the ground.
My mom’s clothesline is enormous; an almost Amish clothesline that my father cemented to the ground beside a corn field, that in the summer gets spread with liquid manure so pungent my mother used to run like a gazelle out the back door to rip the clothes down whenever the spreader ran its course.
“C’mon girls! Richmonds are spreading shit. Help me get the clothes off the line.”
Anyone who grew up in the country with a clothesline knows this routine. I had friends whose mothers responded the same way, and some friends whose mothers did not. Hence some kid went to school with their Wranglers smelling like a barn.
There’s a therapeutic monotony to hanging clothes on a line. The act of pulling pins out of a bucket is repetitive. Utilitarian. Time consuming. Lending itself to the act of daydreaming. Even better, saving money.
My mother loves the way sheets smell after they’ve hung out to dry on her clothesline. (This is on non-manure days.) When my sisters and I were little, she used to pull our sheets off the line and sniff them as we ran around her legs, clamping our lips with the pins to see how much pain we could withstand, charging through bath towels like Pamplona bulls.
There’s a Zen-like serenity in the folds of sheets. When they were hanging out to dry, I used to walk between my parent’s queen-sized sheets and try to make out silos in the distance. Through the thread-bare flapping of off-white cotton the world looked hazier, safer, lovelier, softer.
When a thunderstorm would roll in, we’d all help her pull clothes off the line. My dad too. Galloping out the back door, our black cocker spaniel following us like a shadow as we traipsed with armfuls of wet laundry into the house and down the stairs into the basement, where we had a second clothesline for winter drying, manure days and rain events.
As with any family whose clothes dry outside, there are were those embarrassingly awkward (or just plain uncomfortable) mornings when we’d pluck June bugs out of our underwear. Or days when our jeans were so stiff from line drying they’d stand up like confederate soldiers and we’d have to pole vault our way in.
When my sisters and I were teenagers, we’d plead with our mother to tumble our jeans in the dryer.
“It’s like you STARCHED ’em,” we’d piss and moan.
When we had boys over, I remember running to the clothesline to pull my ratty Hanes off the line before anyone arrived. Clotheslines are quaint when all that’s drying on them are T-shirts, socks and sheets, but nothing is more mortifying than watching your pair of flowery high-waisted briefs flap like a faded circus parachute while you and your 16-year-old girlfriends chicken fight with boys in the pool.
So, here’s to you Mothership: a late Mother’s Day post, as I sit on my back deck, waiting for the washer to buzz, contemplating whether or not I should hang my baggy bloomers on the line, I am of course smiling and thinking of you.
PS. AND to both my parents: Happy 30th wedding anniversary. Do something sappy tonight, will ya? Dad: don’t work on the roof. Mom: don’t do laundry. You guys should rent two-for-one romantic comedies at Shurfine and cuddle with Uncle Homer The Pug.