Wash, dry, press, fold

ironingGrowing up on a farm, there was never a shortage of chores for us to do.  Uttering the words, “I’m bored” got us a one way ticket to Mom’s garden or out to the field to see what Dad might need.  We learned to keep that statement to ourselves.

Feeding the cattle, horses, pigs and chickens was a morning and a nightly routine. Summer days began with picking the eggs, watering Mom’s plants, mowing the lawn or weeding.  Weeding usually turned into dirtball fights and longing talks about the beach just down the road.

It seemed she chose the hottest days to preserve summer favorites: cherries, peaches, pears, crab apples, jams and jellies.   Of course we enjoyed the her efforts but, at the time, we just wanted to ride our ponies and our bikes and run through the coulees and not be bothered with all that stuff.

But the hardest chore, no matter the weather, was lugging baskets of heavy, wet laundry up the basement stairs and across the yard to the clothesline out back.

For many years, Mom had a wringer washer, 5 kids, and no dryer.

Imagine that.

Earlier this week, our dryer died after a year-long illness.  It just finally quit. Stopped.  Done.

Easy-peasy I thought, hopping online to order a new one. Free home delivery you say?  Sweet. Oh, I need to buy the power cord separately? Really? OK, into the shopping card it went.

So here we were, the three of us, Hubbs, me and youngest boy … hanging our clothes to dry.  No issue for me, I hand wash all of my clothes and hang them to dry, have for years.  Hubbs grew up with a clothesline, he knows this gig.  But youngest boy, well let’s just say he’s never experienced towels that hadn’t been fluffed in a dryer.  He’s never felt a crunchy clean towel on his sun-kissed skin.  Never had to iron.  That’s right, I said it out loud.  And I hang my head in shame.

You see, growing up, all that laundry had to come back into the house, too, and there it accumulated, in a pile in Mom’s bedroom until she had time to iron it.  Or had me do it.

And I loved to iron.  Why?

Because, like painting a bedroom, ironing provides me instant gratification. Cause and effect.  You can see the results of your efforts.  Smelling fresh air embedded into a cotton shirt, 15 minutes of zoning out and pressing allows me to stand back and marvel at my results.

And ironing afforded me something else: access to her.  If I stayed in the house and helped, I gained a birds-eye view to the heart of our home – Mom’s kitchen.  I was privy to lunchtime chats with Dad, evening meetings with local farmers who stopped by, and quiet moments while he read the paper and she did the books.   Opportunities to converse, be heard, be still, and savor. My heart smiles at the memory.

Our new dryer arrived yesterday, with the wrong cord, of course.  After the delivery guys left, I drove to the local store, got the right cord and hooked it up myself.  It works great and the towels are fluffy, once again.

But next to it stands the ironing board, ready for youngest boy who’s taking a lesson in instant gratification today.

“You can’t get spoiled if you do your own ironing.”

Meryl Streep


Did you grow up with a clothesline? Do you remember the scents of summer in clothesline-dried clothes?  Do you iron? Yes? Never? Not a chance?

Categories: Faith, Family, Home, Personal, Random, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Wash, dry, press, fold

  1. maggie nickelsen

    Boy, do I remember those days. My job was to iron all Dad’s shirts at the least. I loved it and felt proud, like “now i am a grown woman”! Thanks for the memories! Maggie Nickelsen

  2. e2dietitian

    My Grandma was our baby sitter growing up. We would watch “As the World Turns”, “The Guiding Light” and “General Hospital” while she ironed away. It was quite enlightening 🙂

  3. I grew up with 5 kids and no dryer, too. The clothesline was always full. In the summer the clothes were wonderful and fresh. But in the winter when we hung them in the basement, we could take the skin off our faces by drying them on those towels.

    When we lived overseas, we didn’t have a dryer for a while. That was the year my son wet the bed. And the washer took 1.5 hours per load.

    That reminds me, I have to move a load of laundry over to the dryer. I love the dryer.

    • I don’t think there’s any better fragrance than sheets off the clothesline … but, like you, I sure do appreciate the convenience of the dryer!

  4. I love hanging clothes out to dry on the clothes line and picking them up after! We don’t have one at our apartment here, but my parents have one at their house, and it’s part of being at home, especially in the summer… And even those crispy towels are a special part of it! I also don’t mind ironing, so I understand how you feel about it 🙂 I loved reading this post – it brought back wonderful memories and made me long to be at my family’s home with them (they’re overseas, so it’s not always easy to travel there)!

  5. MJ, your lovely post brought back memories. Of chores. 🙂

  6. First I also learned never to say “I’m bored.” That always got you somewhere you didn’t want to be. We had a wringer washer and no dryer until I went to work. We also had mulberry trees. My mother never said bad words until those birds deposited the remains of their purple mulberry lunch on her sheets. Yikes! Keeping house back then was a full time plus job! I don’t know how my mother did it and worked too. Oh yes, she had me.

    • Oh I bet THAT was a real mess to clean up – ugh! Mom got an automatic washer when I was around 10; the dryer was purchased then, too. My teen years were pretty easy … but I probably didn’t think enough about what HER years were like until I grew up.


  7. We had a clothesline and then we got the dryer. We had to carry the laundry downstairs to the garage below the house level where the washer/dryer were and then climb back upstairs to the kitchen to fold, hang and iron. That’s when I first saw a “murphy” ironing board that hid the board, sprinkling bottle and iron. Mom and I had lots of conversations while I ironed and she worked in the kitchen. Ironing, setting the table, clearing the dishes and washing the dishes were just some of my chores. Nice memories.

    • That’s a lot of carrying up & down! hanging wet laundry out on a cold fall/spring day resulted in ice cold fingers… And there were times the Jeans froze and looked like someone was standing in them. I always thought Murphy boards were cool … My sister’s first apartment had one (so did Mary Tyler Moore on TV) and I remember thinking that was very “mod.”

      Yes, many good, rich conversations were had over mundane chores like setting/clearing the table, washing the dishes and ironing.

      🙂 MJ

  8. I grew up with a dryer, but Mom *always* line dried our sheets. Even in winter, we had clothes lines in the basement. When I was young, I would iron the sheets, pillow cases and Dad’s handkerchiefs. Even though we used the dryer, during the summer, on nice days, the clothes went outside on the line. My last year of college, I lived off campus and had a washer- cold water only. Clothes either dried outside on the line, or inside on a big rack that sat over the heating vent, in the little trailer I lived in. There were a few instances that clothes were hung outside in the cold winter. As I am sure you know, jeans will freeze solid in the winter, but will eventually dry. These days, the only time I iron is when I need to wear a good shirt instead of a knit casual shirt. And those times are few and far between.

    • Line dried sheets smell (and feel) the best! I have distinct memories of crawling under crisp, starched sheets at my Grandma’s house on the rare occasion that I got spend the night (she ironed/pressed her sheets and pillow cases, too!)

      I’ve had a dry rack in the basement for years and just prefer it .. but will use the dryer for towels, tees, socks & such.

      Hubbs knows I don’t mind ironing and he doesn’t mind asking for my help, either, although he’s pretty good at it himself!


  9. No drdyer for us when I was growing up. When I was married, Mom’s wedding gift to us was a dryer (she had one by then too). I loved hanging clothes on the line in nice weather, but must admit, I always “fluffed” the sheets and towels when I brought them in!

    • That’s a great wedding gift 🙂

      Love the smell of line-dried sheets but yes – the crunch of a line dried towel can be and adjustment to make 🙂 MJ

  10. Ah, ironing! I iron almost every day! I love my clothes to be pressed. I practiced growing up on my dad’s and grandfather’s handkerchief’s, on linens like pillowcases and tablecloths…there was always a mountain of ironing to do! My kids don’t iron much, but I can’t go without it. Just something about the freshly pressed feeling! And like you, I also find it soothing, calming…maybe it’s the rhythm or the monotony…not sure which. But it is a chore I don’t mind 🙂 ~ Sheila

    • Really? Every day, nearly? Wow!
      I find it calming, too. Oldest boy irons, he likes a pressed shirt. Youngest boy likes a tee shirt right out of the dyer!

      🙂 MJ

  11. I loved the smell of line-dried bed sheets, loved it. Or when Mom switched out our cotton summer sheets for our winter flannel sheets that had been stored all spring and summer long in a cedar chest. But I’d have to say I’m not as fond of the memory of line-dried blue jeans…I felt like I was walking like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz in those Sears boot cut badboys. 🙂

    • You made me laugh with your line-dried blue jeans story! Yep, didn’t matter how much we ironed those badboys, they were NOT going to comply into being soft! Hear ya there, RR


  12. Everyone in our neighborhood had a clothes line when I was growing up. And I’ve always wanted one too, but my hubby is opposed for some reason. So 25 years later, my yard still has no clothes line. But I’ve been known to hang things off the deck and I hang much of my own clothing right in the laundry room. And I have always loved to iron. I iron almost daily and it’s funny how often I mention this fact to someone and they tell me they don’t even know where their iron and ironing board are!

    • My hubbs has resisted it as well. I think he thinks it’s too … old fashioned/country/etc. Our basement laundry room has a couple of rolling clothes racks and I hang most stuff in there. Iron nearly daily!!

      We are kindreds!

  13. Ironing is kind of therapy for me but I only enjoy it if I really have time. I do not enjoy,”hurried ironing” well, heck…I don’t enjoy hurried anything! Thanks for reminding me of some crisp, freshly washed sheets on the line. Mmmmmm 🙂

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