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Another Day in the Country

Don’t offend the neighbors

© Another Day in the Country

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by clothes drying on an outside clothesline. I find myself taking pictures of clothes flapping in the breeze even if it’s just sheets and pillowcases. It’s a tranquil sight.

Of course, I also like the outcome of sheets that have dried in the wind. They smell good, and if the wind gives them a good flap, the pillowcases don’t require ironing as far as I’m concerned.

When I was going through pictures from Singapore a few weeks back in preparation for putting them into a permanent photo book, I saw picture after picture of clothes drying.

It’s different in that country from anything I’d seen before, especially in big high-rise buildings that house so much of the population. 

They dry their clothes on poles. It isn’t windy there, so whatever higher floor you are on, you just fasten a pole that can be raised or lowered. Some had pulleys on them with a rope attached; some didn’t.

The outside of the building looked as if someone had festooned it with giant-size toothpicks outside the windows.

If someone had a porch with a railing, you’d also find clothes draped over the railing, drying in the sun. Of course, I took pictures of those, too.

My Grandma Ehrhardt always was very particular about how she hung clothes on the line. Sheets had to be in a row with their matching pillowcases in a row — and, of course, hers were ironed no matter how much the wind blew the wrinkles out.

Towels had to be hung according to size — first bath towels, then hand towels, right down to washcloths. Dishtowels had their own spot.

Shirts were hung by their tails; T-shirts, by their shoulders for some reason. Socks were hung by pairs from their toes. Blue jeans and overalls came last, and they always took longer to dry.

Gramm always did her washing on Monday. I never quite figured that out.

Remember when embroidered dish towels were a “must have”? They would have little Dutch girls or animals on them doing some chore — seems to me, I remember quite a few cats. They’d put the days of the week on those dishtowels. Monday always was some cute little character doing laundry or hanging clothes on a line.

For sure they didn’t have automatic washers and dryers in those days.

Grandma hung her clothes out neatly for herself but also for anyone driving by. It was a sample of her clean, tidy, orderly home.

When my parents were students at Ramona High School, even my teenage father got involved with how things looked on the clothesline.

He was dating one of the Schubert girls, and when her family came to Ramona for any reason, he wanted everything around the place where the Ehrhardts lived to look good. 

This was in the days when teenagers didn’t cross ethnic or religious lines without it troubling the adults in their world.

Lutherans were supposed to be dating only Lutherans; Catholics, showing an interest only in other Catholics.

Laurel and Martha came from two different church backgrounds — even further apart than your average protestants.

Martha’s family was Lutheran, and Laurel’s was Seventh-day Adventist. The longer they dated, the more stir it caused.

One Sunday morning, Laurel’s little sister, Verna, was playing with dolls. She decided this would be a good day to do the washing.

She dragged out a wash tub, filled it with water and soap, and proceeded to wash everything she could find.

There were doll blankets, old rugs she’d used for her playhouse, doll dresses, and rag-tag diapers. She was quite the busy housewife and having lots of fun.

Then, she proceeded to hang the clothes out on the line, draping them over one line that was sagging enough that she could reach to hang up her “laundry.”

Grandma wasn’t paying attention to what Verna was doing. She just knew she was busy and having fun — until Laurel came flying into the house.

“I just saw the Schuberts driving by on their way to church, Mom,” he huffed, “and have you seen what’s hanging on the clothesline? It’s a bunch of old rags and stuff.”

Adventists would never do laundry on their church day — which was Saturday. And Grandma never did laundry on Sunday out of respect for her neighbors who worshipped on that day.

Seven-year-old Verna was oblivious to all these cautions. She was just cleaning things up, pretending she was a housewife, and having fun doing it, on another day in the country.

Last modified Feb. 29, 2024

 

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