Ghosts in the Laundry

A storm came in the night—bright jagged lightning, thunder rumbling and crashing in response.  I hugged the covers closer.  Moist air gusted through my open window.

It appeared in a single electric moment—a headless apparition floating by my bedroom door.  My throat dry, I retreated to the plaster walls, willing them to shelter me.  I was terrified, particularly since I hadn’t really believed in ghosts.

The dark being danced—not coming closer but not leaving either.  I wanted to cry out, but I’ve never been a screamer.  Fear just kind of locks itself tight on my throat making it difficult to breathe and impossible to scream.

Suddenly, the air was filled with lightning and thunder in unified chorus.  With the storm totally present, the room brightened like day.  In that moment of illumination, I saw it.  I saw it clearly.  Daddy’s long johns hung on the inside clothesline, dangling.  My ghost.  Argh.

Laundry day on the farm was a weekly operation.  With seven children, the laundry pile towered; then, Mama would roll out the washer and fill it with scalding water.  The washer danced sudsy clothes round and round; then, we would fish them out with wooden spoons and feed them through the ringer.  The ringer, like tandem rolling pins, squeezed hard to ensure there would be plenty of ironing to do the next day.

After the clothes were rinsed in the galvanized tub, they would again go through the ringer, then out to the line to dry.  Clothesline stretched across the yard from a perch in front of the woodshed to a hydro pole down by the garden.  It moved back and forth on gun-metal gray pulleys.  Mama told me Grandma’s finger went around one of those pulleys.  She didn’t know she’d lost it till she saw it lying on the ground.  That was a story to inspire caution in young children.

Clothes and sheets, a clamor of color, flapped in the breeze.  A delightful image unless you’re the one doing the work.

In winter, we hung clothes outside, then carried them in to the warm house, stiff like sheets of plywood.  They were hung upstairs on lines tied across the big common room.  On rainy summer days, we did the same.

Laundry day at my house is much easier.  We have efficient machines that do the job in record time with little human energy. My husband has placed himself in charge, with the commandeered help of our sons, but I do my own delicate things myself.  I’m not entirely crazy.

Recently, I decided to string a clothesline on the patio of my suburban home.  We hang sheets and towels out there to dry.  I convinced my husband it would save a few pennies on our electric bill, but that’s just a ruse.  It is really a hunger to feel the dampness on my skin and smell the clean; to see the friendly waving on the wind; and to remember childhood days when ghosts would fly.

About apronheadlilly

wife and mother, musician, composer / poet, teacher, and observer of the world, flawed Christ-follower
This entry was posted in Family, Humor, memories, nostalgia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Ghosts in the Laundry

  1. “We have efficient machines that do the job in record time with little human energy.” Oh my I about fell out of my seat from laughter.

    We bought one of those high-efficiency, low-clean front load washers. I complained to a friend how incredibly long it took. She wrote back and said a woman on the other side of the world washing at the river can get her clothes done before her HE machine. Normally, we wouldn’t do something like this, but rather than wait for the HE to break down, we went to the store and asked for a low-efficiency washer that cleans. It cleans better, we can dump rain water into it, less cleaning time, we can soak clothes for half a day if we need to. Oh my! One little statement sets off a rant against HE washing machines. Sorry about that.

  2. SR says:

    I too hang my clothes. I love it when I get in bed and smell those sheets. I call it “smelling God’s sunshine. Love it!!! God Bless, SR

  3. Dor says:

    Oh for the delicious fresh scent of air dried/sun dried sheets! What a great idea you had to create the patio clothesline and what a lovely post this is. I love the thunderstorm ghost of your Daddy’s long johns! You are my smile for the day. 🙂

    • The only thing I don’t like is towels that feel like sandpaper, so we put them in the dryer for the last 10 min. to get the fluff. Best of both worlds.

      • I had a friend whose children complained about the towels in hotels not being “Crunchy”. They air dried them at home. We have crunchy towels sometimes, but not often enough.

        • On the farm, our towels were so thin, they couldn’t have been crunchy if they tried. See it’s the luxury of bountifully thick towels that has us spoiled! Costco specials!

  4. That was a fun read. We had clotheslines when I was growing up in Panama many moons ago,and I do not miss the hand washing, beating, wringing and hanging of clothes at all. From the moment we got our first washer/dryer (I was 12) I’ve never looked back. LOL

  5. Ghosts come in many shapes and sizes. It is interesting that your mind jumped to the conclusion that the image you saw was a ghost. Maybe you have believed in them all along. Daddy’s Long Johns have more than meets the eye! 🙂

  6. Lindy Lee says:

    Real suspicious of impending disaster with front loader washer. Can recall the sweet smell of pure whitened-with-Bluing sheets, rung through a ringer & hung out to dry in the hot sun by Mother…

  7. We had a wringer washer when I was young. What a lot of work that was. I remember when we got our first modern washer and dryer. What a great day that was.

  8. Christine says:

    Another thing to factor into the “old-time washday”: clothes were 100% cotton back then, so a wringer really pleated them. Almost everything was ironed the next day. I remember when polyester came in, then “wash & wear.” What a joy!

  9. Reblogged this on A p r o n h e a d — Lilly and commented:


  10. dorannrule says:

    This is a lovely post Lilly and brings back so many memories – but mostly that clean fresh smell of the outdoors you get from line drying. And I love your fearsome ghost too. 🙂

I would love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s