Gary Brown: A clothesline generation boomer baby

Gary Brown

One of my strongest memories of my childhood is my undershorts flapping in the breeze.

I'm not remembering some ill-timed wardrobe malfunction that might have embarrassed me in front of young peers. Nor am I reaching even farther back to recall my attire during my diaper days. I am fully clothed during this memory.

So is my mother. In fact she's got a basket full of clothes that she's hanging on a line.

As much as I am a Boomer Baby, I also am a child of the Clothesline Generation.

We dried our clothes in the breeze in the back yard.

Mom and her basket

I can see my mother standing in the grass beneath the lines, attired in a "housedress," pinning pants and shirts and underclothes to a trio of lines strung between two T-shaped poles. I think there were three lines — one strung between the ends of the crossbars and another in the middle.

Still, I sort of remember there being four lines. But maybe my memory is overstating our status. I don't think we had enough clothes to fill four lines.

The lines extended perpendicular to our "playground." The baseball diamond extended out from the bank by the road, with the outfield grass growing in front of the swing set that served as a home run fence. And behind the swings was Mom, hanging her clothes, the wet garments in her basket at her feet.

Hit a ball into the basket and we should have won a prize, but Mom barely looked up from her work. She just showed a hint of a smile whenever a ball landed nearby her. And, forever a baseball fan, she usually shouted, "nice hit."

Game interrupted

Other than those long fly balls there were only a handful of other interactions.

We held the ball for a few seconds when Mom walked through the infield on her way back to the nearby cellar doors.

We called a time-out, too, when she announced she needed two of the closest kids to carry the next full basket of clothes up the cellar steps to the lines.

And we stopped the game entirely whenever my mother shouted out from the basement that she would be pouring some Kool-Aid and plating some oatmeal or peanut butter cookies, "in case anybody is interested." We were.

So maybe my most vivid memory of Mom's clothesline is smell of it all. The smell of the newly baked cookies Mom made between wash loads. The fragrance of clothes that were dried on the line by sun and wind. The odors of summer — flowers and grass and drying weeds — that surrounded me as I grasped one handle of a wicker basket.

I like the smell of my past. I had a pretty fresh childhood.

Reach Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or e-mail