Thursday, July 1, 2010

Monday Wash Day - Everybody Happy?

There was a platform built near the back door with steps on one side that we would climb and Mother would set down her laundry basket of wet clothing and pull the line towards her. A bleach bottle with a large hole cut from the top of it containing numerous wooden clothes pegs hung from the line. As her work progressed and corners of pillowcases and bath towels were fastened to the strong cord, I could see other women in the distance performing similar actions with similar household items. Often the women would wave or call out greetings. Sometimes they would invite us over for tea.

It was the 'lines of communication', though, that conveyed vast amounts of information, far greater than what the spoken words said. The day of the week laundry was hung was significant. It told whether there was order in the household. The dungarees and faded shirts told whether work was plentiful. A predominance of women's undergarments signified the time of the month. A sea of diapers heralded a baby's arrival in the world and black on the line meant a sympathy card was in order.

Some people learn to read by following the words in a book with their eyes and enunciating each syllable until the sounds and rhythm of their spoken voice makes sense to them. Standing on a large wooden box in the middle of a rural setting was how I learned to 'read.'


  1. What beautiful stories, thoughtful, soulful, sad, and filled with life.

  2. I love the imagery of "lines of communication".

    My very best friend Susie who was 14 years old, was hanging her family's washed laundry from the back stoop when her mother came and stood by her side to say, "your sister is pregnant". Susie's mouth dropped open, at the same time, she also dropped the piece of wet clothing she was in holding, to the ground.

    Susie's sister was only 16 years old, and it was 1974. Teenage pregnancy was still something everyone was so ashamed of.

    Funny though, that after 36 years, my memory of that moment by the clothesline is stronger and more powerful then the terrible secret that was being shared!

    And interesting too, that Susie's mother chose the clothesline as an opportunity to share the news!

    What is women's work?!