Remembering Winter Wash Days

Laundry Day  by Andrew Wyeth

Laundry Day
by Andrew Wyeth

How many of you readers remember the scent of clothes and sheets dried outside in summer? That fragrance is something you never forget. All the fabric softeners in the world can’t duplicate it. In our busy world clothes dryers are something we all use. I can’t imagine hanging clothes out to dry at my stage of life. However, while we are living in London, our flat has a nice washer/dryer combination unit. British machines are very difference from American ones. This one is smaller and takes much, much longer to run a cycle. The dryer often leaves clothes slightly damp. Luckily the flat is well equipped and we have two small folding laundry hangers where I can hang things out to finish drying. I don’t mind doing this at all. It reminds me of my childhood when we always hung laundry outside out of necessity. Even in cold, cold weather.

The following poem was written a few years back for a prompt on PoetsOnline (see about laundry. While several poets chose the metaphorical allusions of hanging one’s laundry out or dirty laundry, the prompt evoked in me a sharp image of having to scramble to pull half-frozen clothing off the line before the snow came.

laundry in winter


On winter wash days, those on the cusp
of warmth, we hung out the clothes
with numb fingers, feeling the curtain
of clouds closing in.

Those were the days when the sun
often hid, and the cold never left at all.

Fabric froze hard, and dresses
and shirts grew solid and stiff.
Rows of sheets, towels and clothes
waved wildly, like pages of a book
flapping in the wind.

In late afternoon, we took it all down,
clothespins snapping shut as each piece
was pulled, placed in the wicker
basket and taken inside.

The darkness closed in early
those mid-winter days, the
evening star sometimes rising
before the icy moon.

(c) 2009, Mary Kendall

wicker laundry basket