We didn’t have a clothes dryer growing up. I didn’t know anybody who did. In my earliest days, our washer was electric with an agitator, but it had a wringer across the top that you cranked by hand. Shirt buttons constantly broke as the wringer “ate” the clothes from one side and spewed them out on the other. The tub was filled by hand with a hose snaked through the kitchen window and attached to the kitchen faucet where we had hot and cold running water. The washer sat on the tiled kitchen balcony where the drained water flowed out of the corner balcony floor hole, through a drain pipe, and watered the fig tree in the back garden space, two floors down. We recycled water and didn’t even know it!

Our job as children was to hang out the clothes to dry. Our clothes line was on top of the flat roof up several flights of stairs. My earliest recollection of clothes line etiquette and “how to” involved a red metal stepping stool with rubberized black treds, a sun bleached hanging clothes pin bag that slid along the clothes line, and a huge wicker basket of sheets, towels, and “unmentionables” (undergarments). I was incharge of the unmentionables because I was too small to wrangle the heavy sheets and towels. Clothesline etiquett included 2 major rules:

1. Stick to your apartment’s designated area.

2. Hang undergarments on the lines in between the sheets and towels so that they remain hidden from neighbors’ prying eyes.

I hang out my clothes today because I love the clean sunshine smell and saving on electricity. And I still practice clothes line etiquette! I chuckled and was reminded of these lessons while reading the novel, Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. She describes a woman’s thought process like this: “She had a strong sense that the population at large judged her character by what appeared on her clothesline, and I can’t say she was wrong.”

Do we judge people by their laundry, by what needs washing in their lives?

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Matthew 7:3

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