Soundings: A Meditation on the Clothesline

Kerry Temple '74 | March 19, 2019

This began with talk of clotheslines and memories of things now scarce — like doctors’ house calls, ironing boards and pay phones. And how you positioned the sheets on the outside lines, to shield your undergarments and holey dungarees from the neighbors’ eyes. And how you hung shirts and blouses upside down — arms flailing like streamers — so those clothespin puckers left nipples on shirttails, not shoulders.  

The conversation brought back images of clothes and sheets, blankets and towels swaying in spring and summer breezes, flapping gently in the sun. And I remembered then, too, how good the cleanliness smelled. It was the scent of sunlight and sky-born wind. And the cloud-soft caress against nose and cheek when I’d press them to my face.  

Back then we let wind and solar power do their work. Back when we had time. And patience.

The sensual graces of those days are now lost in the thrumming, whirring machines that oven-dry our clothes these days, and the false fragrances of chemical odors. Convenience has its costs.

So, too, decorum. We moved across town when I was 12, and my mother stopped hanging clothes on a line. “It wouldn’t be proper here,” she explained. “The neighbors wouldn’t approve.”

In the old house we had time to sit on the porch each summer evening, the melodious sounds of adults talking in those soft Louisiana voices. Those stories and gossip provided the news and entertainment in the hush of twilight.

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 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: ND Magazine