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Clotheslines: Remembrances in Prose and Poetry

August 12, 2020


Clotheslines: Remembrances in Prose and Poetry


By Alice Jane-Marie Massa



A few days ago, I found the six wooden clothespins which I had saved–saved from my home in Blanford, Indiana. These wooden clothespins were once kept in one of two baskets. The first was a wooden basket that, in earlier years, must have held a couple of loaves of Italian bread, which we sometimes called “long bread.” The second basket was actually made of a heavy cardboard, with a squared wire handle: this rectangular basket once held fresh tomatoes before it became a receptacle for our clothespins. When I hold these clothespins now, I think of how my mother held these clothespins. After washing our clothes in the old wringer washer, she passed each piece of clothing through the machine’s wringer. Weather permitting, Mother carried baskets of clothing, sheets, and towels in large baskets up the cement stairs and took the baskets outside to hang the clothing and other items on our clotheslines–a very common “appliance” in the days of my childhood, of the 1950s.


Two T-shaped metal posts which were approximately seven feet in height spanned the distance from east to west behind our east maple tree, water well, and swingset and to the north of our east garden; Like most clotheslines, ours had two parallel wires or lines for hanging clothes. Hanging clothes or pillow cases was a chore which I did not mind. Sheets dried in the Hoosier air always smelled so pleasant. Of course, the one disadvantage of items dried in this fashion was the infrequent need to re-wash an item due to a little bird’s hitting a target of clothing flapping in the breeze. My mother was never too happy about such an occurrence.


In the wintertime and on inclement weather days of the fairer months, Mother used the wooden clothespins to hang the clothes in our basement. Somehow, even in the basement, the garments did eventually dry.


In 1800 and 1801, when the first First Lady to occupy the still unfinished White House, Abigail Adams, needed to dry clothing, she hung the items in the East Room, which was still unfurnished.


Over a century and a half later, my Aunt Zita sometimes hung articles of clothing and other items on lines she erected in the main dining room of her Italian restaurant–of course, when the restaurant was not open for business. All of my other aunts had clotheslines very similar to ours; however, my Aunt Zita, who additionally had all of the linen tablecloths and towels from the restaurant to wash and dry was the first person whom I knew to have an electric dryer and then eventually a more “modern-day” automatic washing machine. When my family purchased an automatic washer and dryer, the machines were placed in our kitchen so that no one had to go up and down the landing and basement stairs to do the laundry. I estimate that these machines were welcomed additions in either the late ‘50s or very early 60s. Even after we acquired these work-saving machines, Mother still liked to hang some items outside on the clotheslines to dry when the weather was appropriate.


I recall enjoying the sight of the clothing, towels, and sheets flapping in the Indiana wind. At times, we had to retrieve a garment when the clothespins were not strong enough for a snapping breeze. Such a breeze did dry the clothes much more quickly. Then came the satisfying chores of unpinning each item, folding it , placing it into the basket, and carrying the basket back inside our Blanford home.


All of these recollections prompted me to write the following poem which takes the clotheslines to a metaphorical place of poetry.


* * *


Clotheslines and Poetry


By Alice Jane-Marie Massa



(First Clothesline)


In those moments of greatest need,

When life is saturated with sadness

And soaked with ever-present tears,

poetry has taken hold of my life,

Shaken it out in the soft wind,

And–with those old wooden clothespins–

Affixed it onto the north clothesline

to dry, to dry

In the snapping breeze and under a partially sunny sky.


(Second Clothesline)


Weekly, I wring out my life;

Then, reaching up toward the clothesline of life,

I take in hand the wooden clothespins

And place upon the clothesline,

Which is Under a Hoosier sky and near my grandfather’s maple tree–

I place

My writings, my life, my poetry.


Mesmerized by the clotheslines of life,

I, for a few minutes or a couple of hours,

am at peace–

at peace, Thanks to poetry.


* * *


Wishing you happy recollections,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


August 12, 2020, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Carole permalink

    Great memories, Alice, of the freshly dried and folded sheets and towels. I still have my mother’s clothespins and basket, which add to the decor in our laundry room. Sweet remembrances for that childhood decade!

    • Good afternoon, Carole–Thanks for your comment on this clotheslines post and for the “likes” which you generously gave to recent WORDWALK posts!  I did not know that you also had saved some of the wooden clothespins.  How perfect that they add to the decor of your laundry room!

      Take care, and enjoy the memories!

      Alice and Willow

  2. Susan M McKendry permalink

    Alice–How nice that you still have the clothespins. Sun-dried laundry smells the best. The only thing better than hanging the wash out is bringing it in. And I’m so happy that your poetry is giving you some peace during this challenging time.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks for your comment on this clothesline post!  Both writing my poetry and reading the poetry of others do bring me peace.  Also, I am so enjoying the JEOPARDY reruns from earlier years and decades.  I imagine that you and John are also.  I wish there were a cable channel that aired only the old broadcasts of JEOPARDY–even those of the Art Fleming years.

      Take care, and enjoy these August days–Alice and Willow

  3. Oh, yes, I remember the clotheslines well! I was tall, so I was able to hang and pick the clothes at an early age. I also recall the long tree branches that were fork-shaped at one end and were used to prop up the lines so they would not sag with the weight of the heavy wet items. Dad must have found those long branches in the woods behind our house. Carole and Tim brought Mother’s basket of clothespins to my home in Colorado when they delivered many other precious mementos, so I can join the “clothespin girls” with my collection.

    Thanks for the treasured memories and the touching poem, Alice. Take care.
    Blessings and love to you and Willow,

    • Mary, aka “Clothespin Girl”–Thanks for adding your memories to this clothesline post.  In later years, I recall that one of the posts to hold up the middle of the clothesline was a metal one. Also, in my post, I had intended to add that Dad painted the T-shaped posts a silver color.  Both Aunt Kathy and I remember that Mother and Dad did not purchase our automatic washer and dryer until after she and Bill did; thus, the year would have been later than 1957.

      Enjoy the party tomorrow!

      Alice and Willow

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