Monday, May 18, 2009

Hanging Things Out To Dry

In an earlier blog I wrote about having solar panels installed on the roof of my house.
Now, more than ever, I am paying attention to the appliances that are real drain suckers. The worst is the air conditioning. Well, I live in Arizona and there are some things a menopausal woman will not live without. If I could just plug my hot flashes into a power source I’d generate enough electricity to light up Las Vegas, but that alternative energy is not available yet. Bottom line is air conditioning is like chocolate – it’s a necessity that helps ensure peace on earth. At least it ensures peace where I tread.

That said, I have found that I can conserve energy in other areas. One is restricting my use of the clothes dryer. I resisted this at first. Hanging clothes on a line is not totally unfamiliar to me. This was a regular routine in the Marks household. When I was a little girl we moved from Chicago to Arizona. Part of the deal when we sold the house was to leave a few appliances behind. One of the items was the clothes dryer. My father promised my mom that he would replace the clothes dryer after he got a good job. In the meantime, my mom could hang out the laundry on the clothes line in the backyard. It took a while before dad got a decent job, but when he did, he was ready to make good on his promise. But my mom declined. She actually seemed to enjoy this household chore of hanging the clothes out to dry. To this day I can see her in my mind’s eye, bobby pins holding pin curls in place, a flowery apron (she wore it like a shirt with her bra strap showing in the back) carrying out yet another load of laundry to the clothes line.

Years later, my sister, Diane, married and moved to a neighboring city. She decided to upgrade her appliances and gave my mom her old clothes dryer. My parents had it installed in the garage. The old house was a bit unusual. It had a utility room, complete with a washer hook up, hot water heater and storage cabinets, but there was no room for a dryer. But even after the dryer was installed, I never remember mom using it. It was mostly used to store cat food. Occasionally we would ask mom when she was going to use the dryer. She said she was saving it for a rainy day – literally. If we went a week without sunshine, she would use it. I don’t think she ever did.

I, on the other hand, enjoy my creature comforts. But my environmentally-conscious spouse, CB, thinks using a clothes dryer is a horrible waste of electricity. At first, the suggestion was to take the items that take the longest to dry (towels and jeans) and find a place in the garage for them to dry. I had shirts hanging (and dropping) from hangers, jeans lopped over the wooden kayak in the garage, and socks hanging all over the place. Finally, I had it. I told CB that if I the washer woman was going to hang laundry out to dry, she needed a clothes line. And I wanted a nice retractable one, so I didn’t have to see it when it wasn’t in use.

Before I could say, Maytag, CB installed a retractable wire clothes just outside the garage. A few days later I ran a load of clothes. I wanted to throw them all in the dryer, but I thought I’d at least put a few of the heavier things out to dry. As I performed this task, a weird sensation came over me. As I hung up a towel, a shirt, a pair of jeans, I thought how it was nice to spend a couple minutes outside. I heard the birds chirp and caught a glimpse of a few fluffy clouds. As I hooked the clothes on the line, I remembered how my mom taught me to hang things up so it wouldn’t put clothes pin creases in the clothes. And, if you hung the clothes just right, you wouldn’t have to iron anything.

I also had a flashback when I was a young mother hanging out little baby shirts and dresses and socks. I used cloth diapers for my first daughter, Alicia. I always washed the diapers separately and I remember that I liked hanging out the diapers the most because you didn’t have to worry about creases or clothes pin dents. I also liked the uniform look of the little white rectangular shapes as they wafted in the breeze. It was relaxing to just pin diaper after diaper on the line and not have to worry about anything – except maybe a dust storm. Who wants dusty diapers? But that really wasn’t an issue that often. Then, a couple hours later it would be time to gather up the clothes. Sometimes I would put Alicia in the laundry basket and let the diapers fall around her. At times she would play peek a boo. Other times she would just toddle around in the grass while I hung out the sheets and other laundry.

Now, as I hang the clothes, there aren’t any diapers or baby things. I straighten out the sleeve of one of CB’s favorite shirts. It has sailboats on it. It took me years to find a sailboat shirt in the right size, but I finally did it. Next, I match the socks with one another and I think about my mom and dad who passed away. It’s been almost 50 years since they packed up the family and headed west. On more than one occasion they told us they moved from Chicago because they wanted a simpler life, away from the hustle, bustle and crime of the city. In their minds, Arizona was the perfect place to live because their children could play outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine all year round.

I’m not a kid anymore. Unlike my youthful days, I can’t gather up the neighbors for a game of hide and go seek, or tag football. There are things to do, places to go and an ongoing list of household chores that need to be done. But when I hang out the clothes I have a few minutes where I can enjoy the sunshine, feel the breeze on my face and take in the scent of clean clothes as I hang them out to dry. I guess mom knew what she was doing after all.

1 comment:

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Lovely article, Sally! I'm proud to say that I haven't used my dryer in over two years. I keep waiting for my neighbors/HOA to complain about my "clothesline" between my tree and fence (originally put up to hold my growing tree upright during the Monsoon season) but they haven't yet. I would love to put in solar panels but right now - too expensive, which is a shame since we live in Arizona!! Hope all is well...