Saturday, December 30, 2006

Simple pleasures

After the sun had disappeared behind the trees in the back yard this afternoon, I took a bucketful of clean teatowels out to the clothesline, knowing they'd be dry by dark.

Two of these teatowels, one a souvenir of Hahndorf and the other of Victor Harbor, and both now with the very fine, soft texture of good-quality, long-worn linen, are relics of my mother's early days as a young farmer's wife and are therefore older than I am. A child of the Depression, she took minutely detailed care of everything she owned, which is why so much of it has outlasted her.

At the end of what had turned into a very hot day, a little breeze had come up, bringing with it the merest hint of the coast. It blew straight through the wet teatowels and onto my face. In the bucket there was also one hand-towel with a crocheted edge of a kind it was my mother's habit in her later years to add to these little towels, ostensibly to prevent them fraying but in reality, I think, to keep her arthritic hands moving for as long as she could.

There's a rhythm to hanging out washing. Peg, turn, bend, next item, peg, turn ...

I thought about Hahndorf, home of a beloved friend, and Victor Harbor, where I once saw a whale, and my mother, who lived, it seems, the kind of life that makes people go on thinking about you often and with love, for years and years after you die.

Every now and then I'd turn around and look at the two perfect Roma tomatoes on my first-ever successful tomato plant. They should be ready to pick tomorrow. There's basil growing in a pot under the verandah to go with them, and multigrain sourdough from the market.


Meredith said...


Stephanie Trigg said...

Reminds me of a plan I had one time to write an essay on poetry and fiction about folding the washing. There's that lovely scene in the Children's Bach, Judith Wright's Small Town Dance, a vignette in Gwen Harwood's Mother Who Gave Me Life, at least one C17/18 poem I can't recall (Anne Bradstreet?), and surely many more. And various scenes of bringing in the washing with friends: Kristin showing me how her mother pulled the sheets into squares as they came off the line; Kate showing me how her Nana used to say, "I iron with my hands, darling."

Pavlov's Cat said...

Brilliant, you should do it.

I also like the bit in The Children's Bach where Dexter's mum buys a new iron for Athena and Dexter objects (I'm quoting from memory but I think this is fairly accurate):

'"It's so light!" said Dexter. "How could you make things flat with that? Irons should be heavy."

The women looked at each other.'

dogpossum said...

this is a lovely post.
i am a bit ob-con with laundry, and often if i'm feeling a bit anxious a nice bit of laundry washing and hanging and taking in and sorting and folding sets me right again.
our washing line is on a little platform of concrete over the herb bed, and as i hand the sheets out they drag in the lavender bush planted specifically for this effect.

this post is exactly how laundry makes me feel.

redcap said...

That gave me a lovely, warm fuzzy feeling, PC. Thank you :)

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

mmmm what a warm and sweet post, PavCat.

I like to think about the best way to hang things on the line to make them as crease-free as possible. but I don't feel the need to hang matching things side by side, or use mathcing pegs (wasn't there a post some time last year about freaky clothesline rituals?).

I love folding laundry, I find it contemplative and soothing, especially while they're still warm from the clothesline.

I really enjoy thinking of the way my mum and her mum used to do these things, and replicate them. most especially the way they fold socks (which is unlike the way any one else in the world does it, judging by the freaky looks I get). I still use nanna's teatowels, and we have her secret stash of unused ones to bring out at some point in the future. they're so evocative.

lucy tartan said...

My blog friend Anne has a very nice post up today about the writer Tillie Olsen, who has just died, and her story called "I Stand Here Ironing".

Pavlov's Cat said...

That is a fabulous story. I'll go and have a look at once.