Monday, July 13, 2009

Wash Day

For once I am actually doing laundry on a Monday and it has been productive in others ways as well. Multi-tasking up a storm here on the ridge, although, alas, not outside much on this glorious day (hopefully a bit of time in the garden after supper–people tend to garden here in summer during the longer, cooler hours "of an evening," as they say). I got caught up with most of our laundry on the weekend but today I washed those things I wanted to hang outside on my old Victorian drying rack, a precursor to the modern ones. The day is just hot–and not humid–and perfect for drying clothes.

I have been in touch with Project Laundry List and they've invited me to contribute as a "Clothes Pegger" to their blog [For my first contribution, today, click here.] I have also been assigned two clothesline-related articles for Old-House Interiors and Early Homes about the subject and history of laundry–and the mighty clothesline in our domestic past and present (more about those articles when published in the next month and later this year, with links). It's been a productive "wash day"!

In the meantime, I have been gathering clothesline and laundry-related quotes and, horrors, just realized that I blogged about Wash Day already on my other blog, Cupcake Chronicles, way back in March 2008. [I was either having a "senior moment" yesterday or a complete brain freeze but you will find on that blog some more illuminations on the subject of laundry and all things good.]

Along with "several" wonderful friends in New Hampshire, I contribute the occasional blog posting to Cupcake Chronicles. Our blog started two years ago this August as an off-shoot to our newly-formed book group that is now virtual (although we are privileged to meet in person from time to time). If you enjoy the posts here at In the Pantry you might also enjoy what we talk about at Cupcake Chronicles–not just books but all manner of topics: food, home, recipes, the odd musing or rant, and well, yes, most blog entries usually integrate books in some way. It is a welcome conversation and one way to stay connected with dear friends through the miles. [I post both as Catherine, my alter ego "Della T. Lutes"–who likes home-related discussions–and a few others, and you can click directly on most of my archived posts (some may not be) here or if you go to the right sidebar on the Cupcake page and just click on "Della." I know that you will also enjoy the blogs of Peaches LaRue, Edie and Queenie.]

I will be back soon this week with "more blogs about pantries and food" (to paraphrase Talking Heads), root cellars, and even pie–oh yes, pie. I also have some new monthly mini-columns–"Pantry Cupboards" and another one I wish to introduce–on similar topics and will invite your participation. Right now, I'm on deadline for an article (tomorrow) and must also go start something for supper!

However, I will leave you with this wonderful quote from Mildred Armstrong Kalish's book, Little Heathens–Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression [Bantam: 2008] The Cupcakes read it this past spring and there were moments I was reading it it in bed and laughing so hard my husband thought I was really losing it. This memoir has detailed descriptions of farm life growing up in the Great Depression as well as many memorable stories. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

From the chapter, "Wash Day" (which was always on Monday):
Is there any sense in trying to make the modern-day reader understand the immense satisfaction we experienced in viewing our bright, clean wash arranged in such a meticulous fashion on the clothesline? Heaven knows we had more than enough to do without this added display of superhousewifery. But the whole ritual was a matter of pride.

There was a rumor in Garrison that a wily housewife, whose husband drove a long-haul semi truck, resulting in frequent and erratic absences, chose the clothesline method for signaling her handsome, blond lover. When her husband was in residence, she pinned the belt of his pants to the line; when he was absent, she pinned the legs of the pants to the line so they hung upside down. I never knew whether this was true or not, but it did make for good gossip.

There were a few years when the women in Garrison hung their panties and bras inside a pillowcase to conceal them from the eyes of any lascivious males who happened to pass by while these unmentionables were drying. But people made fun of the practice and it was soon abandoned. I don’t recall that we ever engaged in that bit of silly primness on the farm.

In the summertime the clothes would sometimes dry so fast that by the time we got the second basket out to the line, the first batch was already dry. We removed the clothes from the line as soon as they dried, being careful not to wrinkle the sweet-smelling, deliciously warm, sun-dried garments. We, meaning Grandma, Mama, my little sister, and I, would immediately put the sheets and pillowcases back on the beds, looking forward to the time when we could lie down on them...

To crawl between crisp sheets, warm and fresh from the sun and air, at the end of a bone-wearying day, is one of the true soul-restoring luxuries of life, which hardly anyone of the current generation will ever know.

2 comments:

Ladyfromthewoods said...

I must admit that it is good to hear another "hanger" call the worry about line-drying undergarments as "silly primness." I just don't worry about it and feel that a little sunlight does wonders for, as my mammaw used to call them too, our "unmentionables." And I fight the temptation to be irked when I hear others worry about it! It's just clothes!!! If you don't want folks to notice your bloomers, don't buy the hot pink thongs with sequins! LOL! (Of course, such a thing on the line could actually remind us and our neighbors that we are fun and still interested in our hubby!) Ah, but what about discretion?

Hmmmm.... I must ponder this in my reading and ask if hanging undergarments are akin to the indiscreet bathing of Bathsheba.

But then again, I don't have to worry about it where I live unless unexpected company arrives. Yes, I might just hurry out to the porch and pull my undies off the line. But if I had a yard clothesline that wasn't so in-you-face, I don't think I would.

What a funny little conversation I've had with your comment section and my head! I'm feeling a bit hyper this morning, so must put it to better use than discussion on underwear. (smiling)

Queen Grandmother said...

Oh, my, I think I'm going to have to put you a peg closer to my favorite author, Gene Logsdon!