Friday, June 20, 2008

Da Count- Wash Lines

This particular story is not intended as a "woe is me" type of post. It's just strong memories that came rushing back to me when I watched Calypso hanging laundry yesterday. I merely share it as a snapshot of particular moments and a somewhat meandering route to Da Count this week.

It's a cool Saturday in October and I have just turned 7. I've carried up the wash basket full of wet clothes from the basement and now I inch along the wash line as I pin up each piece of clothing. It's a chilly day. The wet clothes and cold air make my fingers sting. I have a rhythm. Take a piece from the basket, 2 clothespins from the bag, step up on the wooden box to reach the line, pin the clothes, step down and shuffle the box before retrieving the next wet article. Mommy told me how to do it before I came out here. In between the shuffles I bring my fingers to my mouth so my breath can warm them.

This is all at my new house in town. We just moved here from a big house in the country where we had a vegetable garden as big as this sad excuse for a yard. At my old house I only had to keep my room clean and help in the garden. Helping in the garden was a game not work. My room was only mine. It was pretty. I didn't share it with my brother and it was warm and didn't have graffiti on the walls like my new room. What kind of stupid boys with stupid parents draw all over the walls like they did at this house before we came here? Now my room is cold, there is no electricity or heat in it. I hear the neighbor girl play her loud music on the other side of the wall when I try to sleep. I listen to my brother toss in his bed on the other side of the curtain that divides the room we share.

I hang another shirt as I see the girl who lives across the alley do cartwheels in her yard while her daddy applauds. My mommy is inside the house on the couch. She is not allowed to do any work because she has blood clots in her legs. When I asked if the blood clots meant she would die she said it was a possibility. I need to be a big girl and do more jobs in the house so Mommy can rest and get well. I step off my box again and kick it along the ground to the next spot. Stupid box. The box is about 2 feet long and a foot wide with a divider going lengthwise inside it. It's painted pale green. It's what Daddy built when I asked for a doll house. Only none of my dolls could ever fit into it even when I bent them like they were sitting. He went away not long after he gave it to me. Then we moved. Then Mommy got sick. Now my "doll house" is what I stand on so I can reach the wash line to hang wet clothes in the cold at an ugly house so Mommy can get better and not die while a neighbor girl performs before her adoring father. I hang the last piece, put the box in the basket, and drag it inside.

Months later when it is Spring Daddy picks my brother and me up for a Sunday visit. We go to the new house where he lives with his girlfriend. I am following him up the walk next to the wash line at this new house. There are strange lacy things hanging on the line. I stare at them and try to figure out what they are. Finally I ask. Daddy says they are his girlfriend's panties. I ask why they are ripped and he hustles me along but doesn't answer. I ask her later if she will get new panties soon because the ones on the line are all ripped right up the middle. She giggles and tells me they aren't ripped, they are crotchless. Daddy gets angry. I'm very confused.

Over the years of childhood, adolescence, early marriage and parenthood I hang countless loads of laundry on the line. There is some sort of zen-like serenity in hanging it slowly, filling the line and ordering the clothes from largest to smallest, snapping towels to fluff up the fibers, following the rhythm. It's a peaceful and precise ritual. At night when I slide between fresh sheets that smell of outdoors I inhale the peace. I'd never consider living somewhere that doesn't allow wash lines.

Calypso tells me she needs to do her laundry. I remind her that since the weather is warm and dry we use the wash line instead of the dryer to save the electricity. She says, "Ok." I've gone into my bedroom to put something away. Out of my window I see her slowly fill the line, pants together, then shirts, then undies and socks. I am glad for the peace in our earlier exchange. I am glad for her responsibility. I am glad there are no perplexing garments. I am glad she doesn't need a wooden box and the air is warm.

32 comments:

Mona said...

Yahtzee!

G-Man said...

And I bet you are REALLY glad that there are no 'ripped' panties!!

..In my case however, they would really be ripped...;-)

Have a great week-end Trini...G
xox

G-Man said...

Mona!!!!!
Read the fuckin post you Rakhoshi Wench!!!!
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Mona said...

Yayyy! two in a Row!

Hmmmm... comfort of an old habit...

You made me cry with this...

Jeni said...

Memories! Such another good thing to count on, aren't they?

furiousBall said...

i'm too busy googling "Rakhoshi"

SignGurl said...

Wow! You paint a complete picture of a sad part of your childhood, that makes you complete.

I love your writing style. I hope you will print these writings and share them with your children when they are older.

mary said...

I agree with signgurl! You have a great writing style and they would be wonderful stories to tell your grandchildren some day...well, maybe not the crotchless panty story.

ps..why oh why does one need to hang up crotchless panties to dry? honestly, they seem like disposable undies which don't need to be laundered.

Craver Vii said...

There is a good lesson there, Lime.

They don't allow us to hang laundry in our town, but if they did, the kids might be asking, "Mommy, was Daddy in a car accident?" :-O

NYD said...

I can't remember the last time I used a dryer. Here in the land of the rising sun most of us still hang our laundry out in the sun.

And yes, I can understand just how crappy that can be in winter.

Wonderfully poignant tale, thanks.

San said...

Beautiful movement, Michelle. The whole of your story seems to catch the rhythm of hanging laundry. The sweet inevitability of repetition can be comforting. Also the textures and smells--they mimic the feel of life itself.

I enjoyed lingering over most of your words, skimming quickly over the "perplexing undergarments." Thank you.

EmBee said...

Lime, this post was painful for me to read... The situations a bit different but the sadness and bitterness still fresh.

I wish I could hang clothes on a line and enjoy the fresh scent that lingers. However, clothes lines represent being poor, miserable, a prison-like childhood of chores cruelly demanded because of a step-mother who hated to allow me playtime and friends.

Your last paragraph eases that pain however, in the beautiful way you describe hanging the wash today.

Kathryn said...

Your writing is beautiful.
I'm all choked up over here.

lecram said...

A wonderful count and read, Lime. Since I have taken over most of the chores on the homestead... I too have found the solace of hanging laundry. Plus... sun dried sheets are just the best. Cheers!

coopernicus said...

Growing up, all the Moms in the neighborhood had the collapsible umbrella type clothes lines. Everyone had a hole in their back lawn that the pole fit into, then pushed the mechanism up the pole that always pinched my fingers to create pentagon shaped series of clothes lines.
I was so hyper as a kid my Mom used to hook me up to the clothes line pole on a leash just to keep track of me. Just imagine the drugs they would have pumped into me as a kid had they had today's abundance of pharmaceuticals...

citizen of the world said...

That's a bittersweet piece. A bit oainful to read, but written beautifully and I'm glad you posted it.

mssolitaire said...

I love the full circle feel to this post. What interesting memories we have from childhood and the innocense of it all...

I'm thrilled your exchange with Calypso went well... maybe with school out things will calm a bit for you. :)

Happy Friday!

ciara said...

very sad...funny how simple things can trigger memories whether good or bad.

we live where you can't hang your laundry outside (you wouldn't want to anyways w all the wind we have here), but i remember my mom hanging the laundry outside during my childhood. i always loved the smell of the clothes, the warm sunny days my brother and i played out in the backyard while she did the laundry.

my 55 is up.

Cheesy said...

Lovely touching words... The images in my mind made me sigh~~

Cosima said...

It reads like a short story, and it creates such powerful images in my mind. What a wonderful read!

I don't get the point of crotchless panties. Either you wear panties or you don't. Why is there a need for in between?

Blither said...

Ms Lime, you are a blessed writer. I hope one day you fill an entire book with stories like this one and display it proudly on all the large pricey bookstore shelves :)

Can't wait for next weeks count!

Hugs Bella!
XO

Breazy said...

Lime thank you for sharing this with us. There is nothing better than fresh line dried clothes,especially the bedding.

I really like the way you bring the posts to life. I could almost feel the cold on my fingers and the breath as you warmed your fingers. It was like standing at a window watching instead of reading about it.

Have a beautiful weekend!

BTExpress said...

That was terrific! Why don't you sent it to Readers Digest and see if they publish it. If I was them I would.

When I look back quickly on my childhood, things were all rosy. When I look deeply like you've done here, things were different. Not saying they were bad, just different. Well, except for my parents divorce. It seems very bad when I look back at it quickly, but with a life time behind me, it was the best thing for everyone.

The Zombieslayer said...

Oh, I know where you're coming from when it comes to the cold fingers. I keep forgetting to thaw out the chicken fully sometimes and have to cut cold chicken strips for the stir fry, and my fingers are freezing. I can't put them in my mouth of course because of uncooked chicken blood.

Heh. Too funny about the crotchless panties. It's weird knowing your parents (or in your case your father and his new gf) have active sex lives.

I've lived in areas before where people thought it was low class to hang your laundry. Those people piss me off, because you have any idea how much you can save by not using the dryer, especially when it's hot outside?

DianeCA said...

Really excellent writing! And you have a Red thread as we say in Norway, which holds the memories together. As a child from a divorced family, I can relate to a lot of the feeling expressed in this story.

Evil Lunch Lady said...

Ouch! The visual you gave me makes my heart cry:(

TLP said...

This is beautiful. You should consider submitting it to a women's publication. I'm truly serious. Wonderfully well written.

Annie said...

Thank you for your story of your seven year old self hanging washing..becos it reminded me of my seven year old granddaughter, whose job it is to hang the washing every morning...stands on a table and pegs it all up...she is a cute kid...and I miss her , while I am in NY with my daughter. Oh, well, at least I am getting cuddles from the new grandson here!
Annie

Hilary said...

Beautifully expressed. I could feel the cold, wet laundry and your pain and confusion. You write very well.

KFarmer said...

That was one of the best and most beautiful stories I've read~

ttfootball said...

Did u like hanging clothes in Trinidad?? omg I CANT STAND IT. Its great when theyr dry tho =)

Dorky Dad said...

I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Anonymous, you're a big, fat windbag. Get a life."

And regarding the post: I can't believe your dad's girlfriend told you about crotchless panties. Awesome.