THE END OF THE LINE
From "The Wringer" to "Towing the Line," comes "The
End of the Line"--a fitting title for the grand finale of our laundry trilogy. The art of hanging and picking
laundry is so illustrative of art imitating life when you think about it, because sooner or later we all tow the
line, even cross the line, and eventually come to the end of the line. Though the scent of freshly aired laundry
can be had at a fragrance counter by the name of Clean
Laundry by Dlish, and might be considered pricey--we children of the
Sixties knew there was always a price to pay by the time my mother
reached the end of her
rope--those clotheslines suspended in animation.
First of all, you needed safeguards to prevent
entangling alliances and soiled laundry. My father attached a lead weight to the pulley clothesline to keep
both lines from weaving a tight braid. He also fashioned a long-forked stick from a tree branch which enabled
my mother to hoist the mainsails on our makeshift tree-to-tree clothesline so our white sheets wouldn't touch the
That lead weight may have prevented our pulley
clothesline from becoming entangled, but we were figuratively tied in knots--a stiff price to pay for fluffed
laundry. If we happened to be out joy riding and my mother noticed clouds moving in, she'd tell my father to
make a beeline for home so she could pick the clothes. While visiting friends or relatives, she'd keep her eye on
the time to be sure we got home before sundown when dampness could set in to wilt our crisp
Even my mother's sky watching couldn't have
predicted the onset of rain one summer day when the clothes were just about dried and ripe for the picking.
She recruited all of us in a heartbeat. Like migrant cotton pickers, we pounced on those clotheslines to pick
cotton fabrics, yanking clothespins in the process as raindrops pelted down on us. Hallelujah...good old-fashioned
teamwork salvaged our laundry in the nick of time.
Barring rain, sleet, or snow, my mother hung out
the laundry no matter what season even though we had a network of clotheslines in the basement. The
term fresh air fiend comes to mind as she managed to bend her frozen fingers to grasp our wet clothes and hang
them on the line during some of the coldest and windiest winter days. Though her hands tingled and throbbed in the
thaw, she was not daunted in the least.
Country living dictated my mother carefully inspect
the pickings as she towed to the end of the line in what amounted to a checkpoint Charlie examination for bird
droppings, caterpillars, insects, and tree sap. Her quality control left much to be desired on the evening I
slipped into a pair of pajamas and felt a series of stings. Sure enough, an errant wasp had a field day with
my leg. That was a good time as any to find out I didn't have a fatal reaction to bee stings.
As I come to the end of the line, I'd be remiss if
I didn't mention the time my Aunt Viola strolled through our backyard, smack into the lead weight suspended from
the pulley line. You just know if such an incident occurred in this day and age, she would have been rushed
to the hospital to rule out concussion or anything far more serious. As none of us in my family were ever
mollycoddled, she got the old, "You'll be alright." Amazingly enough, despite many of our ordeals throughout
the Sixties, we made it to the end of the line.
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