Monday, September 27, 2010

The Clothesline ....

I got this email the other day and it jogged a very sweet memory of my grandmother. In earlier posts I have told you that I spent several years when I was quite young with my 'Grandmother.' This was back in the late 40s and early 1950s ... OMG-osh ... I AM older than dirt!! <---- sorry Bz, it's just an 'author's literary license. Grandmother was blind, crippled with osteoporosis and in her 70s, but accomplished tasks a sighted person would not attempt. (like raising a little girl for one thing!) One of the many chores that I, as a five year old, would help with was the laundry. In her tiny kitchen (if you turned around quickly, you could meet yourself!) she filled a metal wash tub with hot, hot, water and those little blue Cheer granules that are still around today. Then she brought out the wash board ... I got to stand up on one of those yellow stools with pull-out steps, the same chair that my grandmother sat on at the table to eat her meals. Funny, now that I think about it, we HAD other chairs, but this one was hers. I would scrub a dress or undies on the board with all my little might (you've got to know, it could not have been clean by today's standards, but I guess it was better than beating the clothes on a rock!)

Grandmother often used 'bluing' on her whites ... a blue liquid from a small glass bottle with a sweet 'grandma looking woman' on the bottle ... I have long since thought she may have used it on her hair as well. The next step in this weekly ritual (almost always completed on Mondays) was wringing those clothes out as dry as possible. I had new respect for her 'chicken neck wringing' abilities or perhaps sympathy for the poor chickens ... my grandmother was a tough ole bird, herself! She would wring out the clothes as best she could and then put into another smaller wash tub and with a bag full of wooden clothes pins we headed out to the back yard and the clothesline. She ran a damp cloth up and down the line, then put it in her apron pocket ... ah, her apron ... now that's another story for another day.

I was never more proud as when she would put the clothes in a basket and let me turn the wash tub upside down so that I could reach the line and place the pins on the clothes. I loved the way the clothes always smelled. And at five, I could not have cared less about all the wrinkles ... no polyester in those days! I was often given the coveted task of bringing the clothes inside. I would make sport of tossing the pins into the canvas bag that also hung on the line.

I have one memory of the wash tub that I wish I could forget ... I left it outdoors one time, turned upside down on the side of the house ... a stage for an aspiring singer or actress ... and I forgot about it after playing. My elderly, blind, grandmother stumbled over it as she was walking around her yard one late afternoon. My married 20-something year old cousin lived in one of Grandmother's apartments took her to the hospital; it was the very first time my grandmother had ever been in the hospital. Her broken left arm had to be repaired with surgery. I can still feel the sting of my cousin's words after all this time ... he reprimanded me sternly and I was inconsolable in my shame.

When my grandmother returned home, I would help her dress each morning and undress at night. I made the coffee (no Mr. Coffee machines in those days) and our morning oatmeal. I did all sorts of chores ... trying to make up for the accident that I caused. My grandmother would praise me following every little thing that I did for her. I couldn't do enough ... she never scolded me for causing her so much pain and she was without a doubt the reason that I became a nurse.


(if you don't know what clotheslines are ... better skip this part)

1. You had to wash the clothes line before hanging
any clothes- Walk the entire lengths of each line
with a damp cloth around the lines.

2. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order,
and always hang "whites" with "whites," and
hang them first.

3. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders - always
by the tail! What would the neighbors think?

4. Wash day on a Monday! . . . Never hang clothes on the weekend,
or Sunday, for Heaven's sake!

5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could
hide your "unmentionables" in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y'know!)

6. It didn't matter if it was sub zero weather . . . Clothes would "freeze-dry."

7. Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes!
Pins left on the lines were "tacky!"

8. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that
each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins
with the next washed item.

9. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the
clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.

10. IRON?!? Well, that's a whole other subject!


Tatersmama said...

Awww... somehow I knew that your grandmother wouldn't have reprimanded you! You learned your lesson, and that's all there was to it.
I hate how some of my daycare parents seem to bring up trangressions that happened weeks or even years ago, and it breaks my heart to see the look in the little ones eyes.

I've got a lot of the same basic memories, but I can add sprinkling and rolling the clothes that needed ironing tomorrow - while mom watched General Hospital.
Every time I hear that GH theme music, I can still see my mama standing at the ironing board - and I can still smell the smell of the clothes being ironed.
:-} ( <-- bittersweet smile)

Katidids said...

Wow, My grandma had a wringer washer and thought she was rich...I remember those days, I did not need to stand on a tub as I was so tall but, i've taught mine the same thing, wipe the line and connect the clothes, undies in the middle. I Still use the blueing rather than bleach. My first visit to your blog, Thanks for stirring good memories!