The senses can bring back a flood of memories. I seem to be particularly susceptible to this in the summer. The distant whine of a lawn mower and, with it, the smell of fresh cut grass. The clean tang in the air after the rain has passed by. The song of the morning dove outside my bedroom window. The announcer and cheering crowds of the softball games at the nearby school athletic fields reminds me of the sounds of the public swimming pool in my hometown. When I think of summer, I think of the feel of the rubber grip of a golf club in my hands as I focus on that little pink ball taunting me from the grass below. When I think of summer I immediately taste buttery corn on the cob, salted tomato slices fresh from the garden, strawberry shortcake and watermelon. I remember the Fireman’s Picnic, parades, and days at the lake.
One of my strongest childhood summer memories is that of hanging wash on the line to dry. You don’t see that much anymore, even in the small towns. If you want to see clothes flapping in the wind to dry you need to drive the back country roads, past the mid-west farms where many such things are still done the traditional way. Admit it, there’s nothing like the feel and smell of fresh sheets still warm from the sun.
The following poem originally appeared in the Wisconsin Writers’ Association publication, Creative Wisconsin in the summer of 2012.
Hanging Wash On The Line
by Jane Yunker
Wet towels flap, snap, in the hot summer wind.
My mother hums a nameless tune as she carefully
pins them, ends overlapping ends to conserve space,
for row after row to bake in the sun until dry.
My mother has strict rules for hanging wash on the line.
Rules passed down from her mother, and now to me, a code.
Rules my own daughter would only laugh at, if I told her.
Rules that, if broken, would surely incite gossip and shame.
Hang clothing of like sex together.
Never should my father’s underwear hang co-mingled
with my mother’s, nor my brothers’ with my own.
What such a display might suggest was beyond decent explanation.
Hang clothing of like type and size together.
Men’s socks hung neatly from largest to smallest,
pairs matched, of course. Women’s follow, in same.
This orderliness outdoors was proof of a neat orderly home indoors.
Shirts were hung from the bottom, while pants hung from the top.
And, never, not under any circumstances, do you drape…you pin.
We are civilized beings lucky enough to be born in America,
a nation blessed with basic necessities like the clothespin.
But the one rule that, if forgotten, could drive a family from their home,
was to hang all intimate apparel on the inside lines and surround them
with large items to block their view, preferably sheets and towels.
The neighbors should only assume one wears underwear.