News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

May 20, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Smell of fresh air gave way to dryers

TERRE HAUTE — Remember when clean clothes smelled like fresh air and sunshine rather than fabric softener and dryer sheets?

We were talking about that the other day during the coffee break at the Family Sports Center. Mary is delighted that they moved a year or so ago to a home with a screened-in porch. Her garage sale hunts produced a wooden clothes rack and she has been able to hang clean clothes out in the fresh air to dry.

I’m hard put to understand why seeing clean clothes flapping in the wind would be offensive to neighbors, but there it is.

We don’t have a screened porch, or a place to hang a clothes line, but I’m glad Mary can sniff her clean clothes and be reminded of those days of yesteryear.

My Best Friend recalled how his Mom and her neighbors had a friendly competition to see which of them could be first to have their clothes on the line each Monday. That was always “wash day” come rain or come shine. Knowing his mom, I’d bet she was the winner more often than not, but how many women, then or now, would want to get up at 4:30, fix breakfast, wave their man off to work, get a boiler of water on to heat and then get up to the elbows in Fels Naphtha?

Personally, you would have to threaten me with a fate just a tad short of death to get me up at that hour. I am an early riser, but I do need my eight hours and have always preferred that the sun and the roosters get up before I do.

It hasn’t been that long ago that I still hung clothes outside. When we first moved to Terre Haute, we lived on South Sixth Street, just a block north of St. Anthony Hospital — now long gone. The back yard at our house was huge, the clothes line just begging for sheets and pajamas and diapers after they sloshed away in the washing machine. But when I went out to sniff and fold, I found that smoke from the hospital chimney had rained black soot over it all. I had to rewash. Not my finest hour.

I still hung laundry outside when we moved to Monterey Avenue and even later when we moved to 23rd Street, but I finally bowed to the inevitable and we purchased a dryer. I was convinced that my clothes would shrink, but they didn’t.

They didn’t shrink, but then no longer smell like fresh air and sunshine either. They smell like fabric softener and dryer sheets.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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