Doing the Laundry


Driving home from work yesterday I saw an elderly woman standing at a clothesline and pinning her clothes up. I almost pulled over, ran up in her yard to help her out!! I miss hanging clothes on a clothesline. I loved how you hung all the big stuff first, then the medium size things and lastly I was taught to hang the smaller things. I loved the artistry it created seeing a mixture of texture, color and size. I loved how the breeze blew my Moma’s underwear, it always made me laugh.

The days and times have changed. No longer running my clothes dryer do I associate with heating the house up. I am sure it still adds some heat, but when I was a kid growing up, if you started a clothes dryer in the summer, folks thought you were crazy. We were “green” before being “green” was such a thing. We used the attic fan on summer nights and it cooled the whole house. We slept under woven lightweight cotton blankets and fresh sundried sheets that smelled of Tide and Downy and pure sunshine.

I can remember not ever hanging my “drawers” on the line when I became a teenager, instead I would hang them on my bedpost. I didn’t want a random potential suitor to drive by and see my most delicate Sear’s pastel colored full bottom cotton “drawers”. That might prove to be more embarrassing than my dad meeting him at the door in his white cotton T-shirt and house shoes or cleaning his belly button lint out while watching John Wayne.

I wonder how many kids these days know how to hang a shirt up, much hang it on the line. Once our clothes were dry, we didn’t bring them in and put them in the closet…not at all. That’s when the real work started. My Moma would set up her ironing board in the living room and the starching and ironing process would start. Each pair of pants were pressed and steamed into flat beautifully creased perfection. She would spend hours on a Saturday afternoon pressing and starching and steaming our clothes and as she finished a nice crisp shirt or skirt or pant, she would drape them from her fingertips in such a graceful move, which prompted her children to jump up find a hanger, at which time we would “carefully” hang our newly washed and clothes into our closet. (OK, not always…sometimes, I hung them on doorknobs, sometimes on my footboard, sometimes on a dresser knob…always resulted in a butt chewing).

I asked a friend of mine’s daughter, do you know how to hang clothes out? This question was as foreign to her as me asking her the dynamics of fiber optic web based satellite digital connection. Actually, she knew what that was… she said, oh, DSL. We call it WiFi, now.

The art of doing laundry is lost. The process of washing, hanging out, bringing it in before a rain or dew, ironing, hanging and then wearing is gone! Replaced with the process is wash and wear clothes. I am here to testify very few in my generation know how to iron or even iron daily. A few of my friends don’t even own irons. I bet I am the only one who regularly has starch on my grocery list and who enjoys washing my sheets every Saturday. It feels like a chore from my past, but when I slip into nice clean sheets it is all worth it. And when I slip into a freshly starched and ironed pair of jeans with a perfect crease, it’s all worth the effort. When I button up a starched shirt and feel the stiffness in the collar, I think of my Moma. Her long slim arm extended out holding a shirt for one of us to scramble up and run around the house looking for a hanger. I think of my Moma holding a laundry basket and directing me to load the small items from washer in the bottom and larger items on top to easily and quickly hang out on the line. I think of my Moma ironing for hours on a Saturday afternoon with the windows open and singing along to Dolly Parton. I think how my Moma was environmentally friendly long before the environment needed it. Then I remember the old saying she used to repeat from my Grandma…”If they pump all the oil out of the earth, the old earth is gonna overheat”. Hmmmm…. Here we are with an oil shortage and global warming and dryers across America running non-stop to get the wrinkles out.

Aunt B

About The Author

Barbie Driskell (Aunt B) was raised in the shade of pine trees of East Texas.

“I am very proud of my roots, just like a pine tree, may not be deep but they sure take over when left to their own devices. I smile frequently, laugh genuinely and live simply.”

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