In July, 86 degrees feels like a fine enough reason to hang out the laundry. There is a surprising pleasure in carrying out this simple task on a breezy summer afternoon. I find myself walking back and forth across the yard, laden basket in hand, not as annoyed as I usually would be that the fuse in our electric clothes dryer chose peak visiting season to go kaput. The repetition of spinning the drying umbrella, reaching for a garment, then clipping it to the line reminds me that most of the good habits we develop—just like the bad—take time, like learning to appreciate the simple things.
Still, there is something disheartening about the broken clothes dryer sitting dismantled in the basement, as if it were just one more thing in a long list of things that have recently begun to exceed their warranty. I think of it now because when I turn the line, it feels like I am marking time. Six months since my cancer surgery…Six years since we bought Smallpeace…Seven years married…Twenty-five years living in New York! Incredibly in August, I plan to attend my 30th high school reunion. How can that be?
Handling the soggy sheets, I notice some wear and tear around the edges. And when I stretch them across the wire, I catch a glimpse of sunlight peeping through a tiny hole that wasn’t there before. It’s like hanging up a cotton chronicle of my body, and I think to myself: Some of these sheets aren’t even old enough to look so worn. And yet somehow, they just are.
I have women in my life who make a big production out of ironing sheets. I used to think it was a mark of good breeding and fastidiousness, and that one day I would take up the practice myself. What I do instead is to hang my linens in the country air the old fashioned way, and sometimes spray them with lavender oil. It always makes me rest easier. On rare occasions, I actually do take the time to pull out the iron and give my sheets a press. I am discovering that even gently used sheets tend to look better when you show them a little extra loving care.