Living in my grandparents' home often times leaves an ache deep inside me for my childhood. I want so badly to go back. Taking baths in the summer in a giant metal washtub in the side yard with my cousins, sharing the one bicycle kept in the shed. Being stung nearly to death by bees in the very same shed. Climbing the huge old tree in the side yard so high that I thought I could touch the clouds. My grandfather taking me in his bedroom and giving me half a stick of Wrigley's gum from his dresser drawer. Watching Hee-Haw with my sweet grandmother while eating molasses popcorn. Looking with wonder at the dozens and dozens of home canned peaches, tomatoes, beans and jam lined up so neatly on shelves in the basement. And the scary mask my grandfather hung on the low pipe in the basement so no one would hit their head.

It was in this vain that I recently asked Hubby to pick up a laundry line for the old laundry posts in the side yard. We took down the line 11 years ago when we moved in, but I never could bring myself to tear down the posts. I am so glad we didn't. Yesterday Taylor, Cornell and Conway walked a basket of laundry outside with me and helped me hang it all on the line. They were so excited to do something new, especially since I told them stories of the great grandmother and great grandfather they were never to meet. We all had to help to hang a huge white tablecloth with flowers embroidered all over it. Conway kept running clothespins over to us. And Cornell had to stand on tiptoe to reach. But, together we hung it all. Towels, washclothes, even some clothes. Taylor even asked me how you run through the laundry on the line. Something no kid should miss out on in life. The kids were so excited this morning that they ran to the line with a laundry basket. Taylor and Cornell brought it all in and I folded it. It had that crunchy feeling I hadn't felt since I was the one running through my grandmother's laundry on the line 30 years ago. I pressed my face in it and breathed deeply. I guess even for a brief moment, you can go back.

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Comment by Ann Corcoran on March 7, 2010 at 6:04pm
Hanging laundry out to dry is one of my favorite activities - even in below-freezing weather (eventually it dries, and in the meantime we have the fun of watching huge solid boardlike sheets swinging back & forth). I'm so glad you introduced your children to such a lovely sensory experience. Such humble, homely activities are really the stuff of life.
Comment by beth chase on February 26, 2010 at 6:30pm
Beautiful post. I remember hung laundry too. And the cool thing is, now your kids will have that memory to carry forward. A lovely chain from past to future.
Comment by amy pertschuk on February 5, 2010 at 5:05pm
Ashley, this is so very sweet and poignant. Was just talking with Wendolyn Bird about the powerful influence that grandparents have in helping us making that early connection to nature. Not all of us had a family farm but many of us remember time spent with grandparents -- in a simpler place and time. Need to rekindle this for our children too.

Wendolyn is an amazing force of nature herself -- find out more about her amazing work on Children, Nature and You:
Comment by Ashley Wainwright Donahue on February 4, 2010 at 5:14am
Thank you so much for the kind words!!
Comment by Suz Lipman on February 3, 2010 at 6:06pm
Ashley, this is such a beautiful reminiscence. I'm so glad you shared it. It's full of all the small details and activities many of us remember from childhood and might be trying to recreate now, in a world that has often spun away from these simple pleasures. I get such a feeling of expansive time and space, to play and daydream. I love all your details, like the canning and the mask. I feel like I can see the house and basement.

I also love hanging laundry to dry, everything about it. One of the things we have from my husband's childhood house is the tin pail and the clothespins his mom hung the laundry with. M husband says the sound of the wooden pins hitting the pail as they're thrown in takes him back to his childhood. Thank you for reminding me of that! I hope you'll keep writing beautiful things.

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