The True Sign of Spring

It has been a long winter in Iowa, with snow on the ground for the majority of the season.  Today we have partly sunny skies and temperatures near 50-degrees.  Most of the snow has melted in our yard. The little girls and I just finished a bike ride.

For some, it might be the buds on the trees. For others, the flowers sprouting through the ground.  But for me, the true sign of the approaching spring is the sight in my back yard, where I just hung a blanket to dry on the clothesline.

Hanging out laundry is one of the few household chores I actually enjoy. When I first got married, we lived in married student housing on the University of Northern Iowa campus.  We shared a communal back yard with all our neighbors and the clothes lines served as a sort of meeting place for mothers. My son Dan (who incidentally turns 30 tomorrow) always had a friend to play with in that yard. As a newly married woman, I took the title of housewife very seriously and would search the apartment for something to wash, anything to wash, just so I could do more laundry and hang it outside.  I washed our bedding every other day, reveling in the smell of sunshine in our bed that night. The single most common sight was that of white diapers flapping in the wind.  I get a delicious sense of deja vu when I see that same sight now, as if stepping back in time.  When pregnant, I would wash my nightgown daily, using a strong detergent and bleach. My husband knew better than to question the foibles of a pregnant woman but he eyed my white cotton nightgown with the increasingly faded bluebell pattern warily each time I wore it. I finally threw it away after Emily, our sixth was born.

I miss that nightgown (not the diapers) but I can replicate the delicious smell of detergent, bleach, and sunshine. And I do, every time I do a load of towels and hang them outside.

Now, of course, I don’t need to look for anything to wash, there is always something that needs laundering.  My two oldest at home wash their own clothes but the other two make plenty more. The towels alone mean at least one daily load.

So I welcome spring with a full clothesline.

I was horrified to hear that some communities actually outlaw clotheslines, for aesthetic purposes.  I find the sight of a clothesline full of clothes calming and homey. And the smell can’t be replicated by even the best dryer sheet.  I believe there is a sort of beauty in the clothesline and for all it represents: time, family, cleanliness, and simplicity.  If you believe the same thing, you might want to check out this website;

Who knew? Activists for hanging out the wash?

Right on.

One thought on “The True Sign of Spring

  1. Beth says:

    Mary, I thought that I was the only one who liked to hang up the laundry on the clothesline. I absolutely love the smell of clothes dried outside. I always thought that the sight of clothes on a clothesline reminded me of a cozy home, and the old days when you would see clothes flapping in the breeze with a wicker laundry basket sitting on the ground below. I can’t wait to hang something outside.


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