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by Eva Pasco

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 ground. 

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 laundry. 

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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Underlying Notes by Eva Pasco  An E. Quiche by Eva Pasco



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