The Dancing Clothespins

July 23, 2018
The Dancing Clothespins

The Dancing Clothespins 7/23/18

 The other day while doing laundry in my musty basement, I thought that I should look for the clothespins and clothesline I had bought when I moved into this house 25 years ago. The truth is it is probably lying under a box of old candlesticks or empty paint cans. The idea of lugging my wet laundry upstairs, then carefully hanging each piece so as not to touch the ground outside quickly passed, but the thought of seeing laundry blow in a summer breeze or to smell the sheets on your bed sweet with the outdoors on each thread remained in my imagined life. My Mother and Grandmothers all made a day of laundry when we were children. It must have been quite a chore for them, but for me running in and out of those large white sheets rubbing against my face while getting a peek at the curious female undergarments hanging in waiting for my maturation into womanhood made me delirious.

I am not alone in appreciating the joy this common activity from the past provided for me. All times offer their peculiar opportunity for a now unknown pleasure as I learned from a friend I chatted with on the steps entering the bakery the other day. I hadn’t seen him for a while and wondered what kind of treats he was looking for. His eyes lit up as he told me he was taking treats to the ladies who still worked at a neighborhood diner of his youth. He said they were absolutely thrilled when he brought them things from The BonBonerie, which of course made me happy. He has known them for a very long time.

He continued to tell me the tale of hanging out at his grandmother’s house in that same town. Her house butted up against the Erie Canal. My friend would fish all summer long in that canal while his Grandmother did her long list of chores in and outside of the house. One summer’s day as his Grandmother was getting ready to hang a large basket of laundry, she stopped and asked him to run into the house and fetch her a pencil. When he returned, she picked out a round knobbed clothes pin and drew a smiling face on it. She then directed her grandson to pull a blossom off of the bush growing up against the house. He rushed over yanked it off and ran it back in anticipation. His grandmother bit off the bottom and gently placed that blossom over the head of that clothespin to create a clothespin now disguised as a girl in a beautiful skirt.

It didn’t stop there as they continued to collaborate on creating this colorful dance troupe one blossom and face at a time until the entire basket of laundry was hung by this flowered chorus of beauties. He told me that it looked like they were dancing on a tightrope.

His love for his grandmother was clear in his voice and in his face as he told me that story. He said he hardly left her side all summer.

That is not our time now. It’s lovely to reminisce about how creative we were in the past, but yes, I do love my dryer and dishwasher and cellphone. But beautiful memories are primarily constructed out of the time we spent with someone who loved us. Old or new, the idea of clothespins with faces and flower skirts holding up a day of laundry, however, is an image I hope I will never forget.


Sharon Butler