This picture was taken in the summertime, twenty years ago. What my fingers feel when I look at it is strictly wintertime, though. One thing you never forget about hanging clothes is wet denim wrapping around your cold bare fingers while you fumble with another clothespin to secure the rest of a pair of jeans on the line. Jeans are the worst offenders in winter. Jeans are heavy. No matter how good the spin cycle on your "warshing" machine, a single pair of Levi's will have the perceived weight of an eight pound bottle of laundry detergent. No matter how sturdy the handles of the laundry basket, your chilled fingers will slide to the one chink or break in the handle that cuts into your almost frozen, but not quite numb enough, flesh. Yep, wintertime is what springs to mind when I think about hanging clothes on a line to dry.
Summertime has its own clothesline quandaries, to be sure. Take, for instance, the dreaded t-shirt tail stretch. T-shirts have a lovely, comfy, soft feel against your skin because they are so pliable, so happy to oblige this tug or that pull. That same obliging stretchiness turns your comfy t-shirt into a reminder of the Inquisition-- how else could a plain, simple square of fabric turn into an evil, distorted patch of strange sundried lumps and bumps, other than if it has been tied on the rack and tortured? Oh, wait, those aren't marks from some torture device, those are dips and stretches from gravity pulling the wet fabric toward the grass while the clothespins held on tightly. I remember all sorts of attempts to get rid of the t-shirt tail twist when I was a kid. You can try overlapping the edges of two t-shirts and securing these thicker areas with double clothespins, as opposed to hanging shirts singly and with single clothespins at the corners. You can try hanging the shirts from their shoulders and hoping the stretch isn't noticeable once it's filled out some by the slope of your own shoulder. You can try bringing almost-but-not-quite dry t-shirts inside to the dryer for a finishing fluff. The one thing I don't remember trying, but that has real possibility as a solution, is folding the top of the t-shirt down at armpit level and anchoring the clothespins inside the armpit part of the should seam. Then, the stretch might still be there but not be as easily seen?
What else? What other trials and tribulations shall I count? Oh, yes-- underwear and sock days. There never seem to be enough clothespins on the line to handle all of the socks and underwear in a big load of whites. You can scootch all of the free clothespins down the lines to the end where you are hanging the tube socks and anklets and panties and shorts and bras, but you'll still end up opening the last free clothespin as far as possible to open it without breaking the spring, all in a last ditch effort to hang the remaining five socks at the bottom of the basket.
Would you believe that I started writing this because I'll have a clothesline at the new house and can't wait to use it? Does it sound like I might have talked myself out of keeping the clothesline? Not a chance. While other people contemplate questions about actual cleanliness (see the labels to this entry) versus the savings in kilowatts per year, I will happily hang out towels and sheets and quilts. While the multitudes of electric dryer converts espouse convenience and fluffiness, I will happily nod agreement (and even join them for most loads of laundry) BUT I will also use that clothesline to distill sunshine into bedcovers and dishtowels and button-up shirts and yes, even jeans. Mmmmmm, can you close your eyes and smell the sunshine? Feel the warmth trapped in an armload of clothes as you quickly take them off the line on a slightly chilly spring afternoon?