Sheets on the line, snapping in the warm breeze, are one of my very favorite things. It’s barely noon, but I picture myself cozy in my bed tonight, fresh scents of summer, lulling me to sleep. Is there anything as humble as a clothesline? It can be as simple as a length of twine tied between two trees (like we do when we are camping) or as fancy as a collapsible umbrella that you can take in and out according to the weather. I even have one made for apartment dwellers, that fastens to the wall to be attached across a room, then rolls itself back in when not in use.
My grandma had the best clothesline. It was a pulley system from her back porch, a mile (it seemed!) out to an ancient maple tree in the pasture. I can still see her laundry stretched above the yard and across the garden. It truly danced on the wind that whipped up from the river. Helping grandma pull it in the late afternoon never seemed to be a chore. Even as a little kid, I felt the sacredness of those times spent on her farm. Summer days filled with endless hours making trails in tall grass and searching for kittens in the dark interior of the big old barn. My brother and sisters and I couldn’t think of any place we would rather be. We grew up sitting around her round picnic table in the yard, her old transistor radio turned to KWYZ while we played cards or shucked corn or snapped beans.
Upstairs at grandma’s house was a huge bedroom. Even with the low, slanted ceilings, there were enough beds for each of us, including grandma. She tucked us under quilts made from five inch squares cut out of old wool coats and and sewn together with feather stitches in contrasting thread. Beneath their weight we had little choice but to lay still as grandma told stories in the darkened room. I loved how she spun the Mother Goose tales into a long and winding adventure where Little Bo Peep bumped into Little Boy Blue and they worked together to round up their restless flocks. Sometimes they ran into Mary and her lamb, sometimes the Billy Goats Gruff tripped along, telling of the wicked troll that lived under the bridge. We’d drift off the sleep to the soft sound of grandma’s voice and the lonesome whistle as the train lumbered on tracks on the other side of the river. In the morning we would tip toe down the bare wooden stair treads and venture into the kitchen where grandma already had a fire in the trash burner and corn meal mush cooling in the pan.
Isn’t it interesting, how our memories are stirred and pop up as fresh as if it happened yesterday when we allow ourselves the time to ‘just be’? Here I am having quiet afternoon, thinking I am alone in my backyard, when in fact I am sharing the space with my younger self, my siblings, my grandma, not to mention, long gone barn cats. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.” I picture underground springs of memories, that bubble up when the surface is scratched. It’s funny how it works. Here I am, the grandma now, sixty four and counting, but when I think of these old days I am six, or eight, or ten… and for a bit, immersed in the good old days, in my heart I am a child again!
My brother loves to say, ‘those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…’ (or maybe that was Judy Collins), in any case, it is certainly true! We’re busy living and growing up, and then all of a sudden here we are, looking back across the years, wondering where in the world the time went. Today, close your eyes for just a few minutes. Let your mind wander, open the door to the dusty closet where those old times were stuffed so long ago. Pull out a good time and sink into it for a while. I’ve got to go take my clothes off the line…