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Hanging Laundry This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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The summers at my grandmother’s house in Canada were always filled with beauty. The ambitious grass of the two and a half acre lot would rustle and swing with the passing of a breeze and soaked up the nourishing warmth of the sun. Sitting serenely on the border of the property was a gently sloped mountain that never failed to burst into a breathtaking display of green aspens, oaks and maples. The wood-paneled cottage itself was a well-loved, red, sanctuary that housed 19th century hand-made snowshoes and a satellite T.V. It was bordered on one side by rolling flowerbeds and an open, green yard on the other. The tiger lilies, black-eyed susans and roses, though beautiful, forced the lavender to spill out onto the grassy walkway and the sunflowers to stand at attention.

Unfortunately this beauty was lost on me when it came time to hang the laundry. This seemingly simple yet hated task always seemed to interrupt my dream-like days. The laundry line was located behind the house near a giant crabapple tree and was attached to a small pine and a pole stuck in the ground. Another lone pole was used to prop up the middle of the line, which usually sagged from the weight of the clothes. If the middle pole was not there, the newly clean clothes would droop to the ground and would not dry.

I hated everything about hanging the laundry. The yellow plastic basket rested in my hands like a lodestone weighing me down with damp socks, underwear, shirts and pants that were usually someone else’s. Before I even started to hang the clothes I had to spend at least five frustrating minutes propping up the lone pole in just the right position so that it did not fall from the weight of the clothes. When it came time to hang, I had to space out every article of clothing on the line so that nothing overlapped or touched the ground. All of these steps were performed while the scorching sun burned my exposed neck and the stench of the astringent detergent wafted from the basket. The worst part of the chore was running out of clips that secured all the clothes so that they did not blow away during the gusts of wind. If I ran out, I had to rummage around in the dark, wasp-infested garage for a new box of clothespins. The buzzing overpowered my ears when I entered the garage and the search for clothespins became a search for salvation. Some days, in my hurry to discharge myself from the assignment I would trip and fling the clothes out of the basket. This usually meant someone would end up missing a sock or pair of underwear, the unlucky item never to be pulled from the shadow of the undergrowth near the laundry line.

During my childhood and preteen summers the mention of clean laundry would instantly darken my mood. I would glare at everyone I passed and a smile would have been unthinkable until I had completed the arduous task. However, at the beginning of my teen years I started to feel more satisfaction than resentment when it came time to hang the laundry. I began to feel my shirt grow hot, and then cool as the mellow breeze tempered the warmth from the sun. The sweet, summer, mountain air finally seemed to reach my nose, quieting the smell of the harsh detergent. Sometimes my grandmother would even come out and help me. Her deft hands would easily place and secure the laundry showing me a way to get one pin to hold two articles of clothing. While she helped, we would work side by side, facing the line, our hands never stopping as we grasped, spread, and clipped. We would chat about how little Matteo had climbed the attic ladder for the first time today or how there was an influx of people in town due to the upcoming Elvis festival. Over time I finally found the odd bits of joy that were scattered throughout the task. I even began to appreciate the variety of clothes needing to be hung and my growing expertise in the hanging itself. The entire extended family had unknowingly chosen me as their secret keeper. I was amused to see uniquely patterned boxers, pants with holes in the pockets and even a couple of thongs. The work no longer seemed onerous and mundane. An orderly line became something to take pride in.

All too soon after I began to take pleasure in hanging the laundry, a gleaming electric washer and dryer were installed in the basement of the red cottage. Now the only thing the limp line in the backyard is used for, is drying beach towels. Everyone simply flings their wet striped towel over the line, never stopping to use pins to secure it or making sure that two towels do not overlap. Sometimes I will offer to hang up all the multicolored towels after we pull into the driveway where stones bite your bare feet. Other times I let the rabble of young cousins indiscriminately fling their towels over the line as they scramble to get to the hot shower. When I do, I wander back to the line and make sure that the lone pole has not fallen and that each towel has its own breathing space. If I am lucky the sun will still be present to warm my damp bathing suit and a sweet breeze will come to rustle the leaves of the nearby crabapple tree.





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