When I was a kid growing up on the Jersey shore, when I was living with one of my mother’s boyfriends in a sprawling if ramshackle house, we had a clothes line strung up on the side yard May, June, July, and August. It was a swaying, often sagging, temporary affair; the clothes pins, which were made of wood, were kept in a drawstring canvas bag. Our housekeeper, Marguerite, who started out with the family as a baby nurse and then stayed on for 20 years, insisted it on the summer clothesline. There was a noisy, dented and slightly rusted clothes dryer on the glassed in back porch, right next to the washing machine, but in fair weather, Marguerite craved the smell and feel of clean, salt air dried shirts and sheets. Ours was a good sized household with loads of summer guests; there was a lot of wash to do and Marguerite did two loads a day. She recruited my stepsister Mary Gail (age 8) and me (age 10) to hang the wash on the line before we headed out anywhere. When we returned a few hour later, usually looking for lunch, Marguerite told us to bring it all in and sort through it; we brought her the sheets and all of my stepfather’s shirts. She spent most of her afternoons ironing in front of the TV, watching what she called her “stories.” Although she was hopelessly addicted to “Another World” and “Guiding Light,” possibly due to her former status as a registered nurse, Marguerite was an enthusiastic follower of “The Doctors,” and “General Hospital.” Her favorite, however, was a new soap at the time called, “Young Doctor Malone,” which she thought stood apart for its use of actual medical crisis, a characteristic generally missing from her other soaps.
When my husband and I first saw our little house in Seaside, I immediately was impressed with the sturdy and permanent clothesline. I realized that with the outdoor shower and proximity to the Cove, it no doubt had been created as a place to rinse and dry wetsuits. Almost as soon as we moved into the house, I began hanging laundry out on it.
There really is nothing as amazing as climbing into a bed with freshly laundered, air dried sheets. In my fantasy life, the sheets, as well as the towels and the pillowcases, would be freshened every day. When we lived back east, my husband took his work clothes to the Korean cleaners who washed and ironed his shirts. Once a week I picked them up neatly folded and packed in a cardboard box. As you may have noticed, there is no such service available in Seaside. The nearest dry cleaner is in Astoria, for heaven’s sake.
I admit I’m not much for ironing. I ironed my hair as a teen, but that’s my only attraction to an iron. My son who washes and irons his own shirts in Portland is aghast I don’t even own an ironing board. Luckily if I pull the button down shirts out of the washing machine and get them on hangers damp, hanging them outside on the line makes it possible to get away with just ironing them a tiny bit.