It was just a simple pulley ordered from Lehman’s Hardware, the fabulous place in Ohio where you can find any interesting gadget. I hoped it would change my life. For decades I had longed for a beautiful airy clothesline on which to pin flapping sheets and tough-to-dry blue jeans and towels that would come in with that rough fragrance that tells you: line-dried!
I had grown up with a mom whose favorite job was laundry. I think she found it therapeutic to run her Maytag wringer washer, the beaters thumping, the rollers pressing out the soapy dirty water, my little sisters standing behind to guide the flat wet clothes into the clothes basket to await their rinse.
The first movie my family took of little me as a toddler, I was crawling in and out of a torn sheet on the clothesline, making the hole bigger with every pass through it. The clothesline was a play place.
My grandson Everett was just a few days old, when the first row of diapers went up so beautifully in their Rockbridge county back yard. I loved the look of new white diapers blowing in the wind.
The clothes-hanging gene must have come through full force in his mom, our daughter.
When she heard what I was writing about today, she sent me a photo of her full four lines of this morning’s laundry, hung the way her African friends taught her during her time in Zambia.
A clothesline was a happy place. And I wanted one of my own. Hence, the pulley. Robby spent a long time figuring out just what gadget would work best for us. We reminisced about trips to Nova Scotia, where farmhouses and town cottages had lines swooping up off of porches and up into distant trees, the family wardrobes out for the world to see in full living color. The pulley and lines were ordered, along with spacers to keep the clothes up off the ground.
After sitting in the basement in its box for several years, and after endless discussion about where in the world a clothesline could appropriately be installed in our yard without annoying ourselves or the neighbors, the pulley was finally installed. Robby cut a small cedar out of our thicket and made a post. He set the post in cement, and lined up the double line between the cedar and a mulberry tree down in the small ravine along the property line. We were in business.
Or were we? After a few weeks of Robby “trying it out to see if it worked,” it dawned on me that I hadn’t yet hung up a single article of clothing or a towel. When I was out, or off visiting the grandchildren, Robby would do up all the laundry and hang it meticulously on the line. There is nothing like the lovely order of the clothesline after Robby has hung each piece. Even the shop rags look beautiful.
Not only was he sorting the laundry, working on stains, doing each load so as not to get lint on his black tee-shirts, and then hanging it up in such a picturesque manner, he was also taking it down and folding it. I started to find my drawers filling with neat piles of clothing. He was making an art form out of the laundry.
So how could I complain? Even little Everett, now 8 years old instead of newborn, was copying his granddad and asking to try out the line, especially working those cool spacers and sending the clothes sailing down the ravine by pulling on the line.
So one day not long ago, when I had a sewing project to do, I did a sneaky thing. I started the washing machine and put in two lengths of African cloth that were to be made into valances for Anje’s entryway windows. Robby was not consulted. I carried them outside, stretched them out on the lines and stepped back in satisfaction. The sun was freshening the batik cloth; the wind was blowing. My life indeed had been changed, but as always when living with my husband, in delightful and unexpected ways.
Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected].