When days like today come along, warm and bright in the middle of winter, I feel a need to wash everything I own. Sheets, towels, clothes - I love to see all of them hanging in the sun to dry, clean and crisp and fresh. It calms me and grounds me and I feel just a little like I have my life together when it's all neatly folded away. I was at my aunt's house this afternoon with bits and pieces of my family, soaking in the sun on the deck, and watched my grandmother put her cup of tea down and walk back and fourth down the yard checking the washing. Bringing it in, folding it, turning it so the edges were in the sun. She likes to be of use, and the washing has always been her habit. I suppose with seven children and countless grandchildren, it makes sense. My grandfather used to say that she worries them dry, always keeping an eye on them, ready to swoop in with the next load the moment they're done.
We're a family of worriers, the women at least, so I suppose small things like doing the laundry makes for some kind of order in life.
I once found a picture of her, small and black and white, not long after she was married, wearing a full skirt and standing in the grass, a row of clothes on the line. And another picture, much older, in one of the boxes somewhere, of her mother, my great grandmother Nell Winchester, standing smiling by the clothesline.
It makes me smile to think of them. I'll have to find myself copies, so on those days when I'm pegging out baskets and baskets of washing, I'll know how good I have it.