Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Wash day May 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:59 AM
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I CARE NOT ONE bit that he detests the rough feel of a scratchy towel against his skin, the abrasive texture of cotton encasing his foot or the stiffness of line-dried blue jeans brushing against his legs.

Nothing. Not my teen’s complaints, or pleads or requests will stop me from hanging freshly-laundered clothes outside to dry.

It is one of my joys—to hoist a basket of wet clothes onto my hip, lug the basket upstairs from the dark cave of a basement laundry room and then step onto the back stoop into the bright sunshine of a spring morning.

Methodically I work my way through the pile of wet clothes, clipping them onto the clothesline as the early day sun warms my fingers and the wind whips socks and jeans and underclothing and shirts into a frenzied dance.

The simplicity of this task pleases me, connects me to the land and to the women before me who toiled, hanging their faded calico dresses, their hand-stitched crazy quilts, their worn aprons, and the patched trousers of their men and sons under the prairie sun.

As my fingers touch the wet cloth, bind cloth to line, I am bound, by this simple act of hanging out the wash, to generations of women.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “Wash day”

  1. Bernie Says:

    There is nothing in the world like freshly hung laundry. In our old place I had a laundry line and used it the time. I miss it. I have been looking for one of those umbrella type laundry things to hang clothes on.

  2. virgil Says:

    I like the fresh smell of clothes hung outside. Maybe it is from years ago when my mother always did it. Sometimes the clothes were even frozen when they were brought in. She did have clothes line in the basement for the real winter days. No clothes dryers back then.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I love the smell of sun-dried clothes also. Nothing like it.

      My mom had a clothesline too. Such sweet memories.

  3. Dawn Tietz Says:

    I too LOVE hanging laundry on my line. I am anxious to get out of school for the year so I can utilize my lines even more. Now I go to work before 7:30 and don’t make the time in the morning to hang anything out before I go.

    I wonder if clotheslines will become a thing of the past as I don’t see many young mothers hanging clothes out, not here in Morgan anyway.

    My neighbor and I have a little competition on weekends to see who can get their clothes on the line first. She usually wins as she often goes to work on Saturday’s and gets those clothes out before I have a load washed.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I thought maybe with the whole “going green” movement that more people might hang out clothes. I’m the only one in my neighborhood who does so. Work schedules probably are the deciding factor for most. I love that you have a little competition with your neighbor.

      Anyone else out there hang laundry outside on a clothesline?

  4. bevalker Says:

    I love hanging my clothes out on the line also! Sometimes I will wash one load before I go to bed at night and then another load after I shower in the morning so I can hang 2 loads out before I go to work by 8 a.m.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yeah to the laundry-hanging cousins, Bev, Dawn and Audrey.

      I’m impressed that you hang a load of clothes out in the evening and then another in the morning before work. That’s someone who’s passionate about drying laundry outdoors.

  5. -dweej Says:

    Hanging wet laundry is my absolute most favorite chore in the history of chores! I had our clothesline up before we even had a functioning kitchen (out of necessity but also out of want). It is such a meditative time for me. Love it 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      So glad to know you are part of the clothesline crew. I love that you had a clothesline before a functioning kitchen. I too use that time to think and reflect.

  6. djhcakes Says:

    I am so glad I have “hang laundry on the line” sisters! I too love the clean, fresh smell of fresh hung laundry, especially the bed sheets! Ahhh…don’t they smell soooo good? Keep hanging them out “line sister”! I’m with you, a little scratchiness on the skin never hurt anyone!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Glad to meet you, laundry line sister. Thanks for stopping by and telling me you love hanging laundry on the line as much as me.

  7. djhcakes Says:

    Glad to meet you too! There are 4 of us in our neighborhood that hang our laundry on the line, and yes, our undies too! We live out in the country and it’s ok. I would hang mine out if I lived in the middle of NY, I can tell you that. It is a time of reflection for me and a time just to think of the things ahead of me for the day. I plan what I’ll cook for supper, yes, I called it supper! I think about what my kids are doing, think about my grandchildren, etc.. I guess you could say that laundry time is my time, probably just like all of my sister clothesliners!

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