“I Put Out A Pretty Wash”


We were sitting on Mom’s patio, she approaching her 91st year. “I put out a pretty wash,” she recalled.

I’d really never thought about that before. Of all my household chores as a kid, hanging clothes was always my favorite.  And the heavenly smell of those sheets as I was crawling under the covers at bed time was sheer comfort.

  But a pretty wash?

It hadn’t crossed my mind.clothesline

As I’ve thought about it, now that Mom is gone, the art of homemaking was my Mom’s medium. Long before Martha Stewart, our small wood framed home always smelled beautiful. No scented candles, no incense, but there was something very graceful in the air. I think it must have been real, fresh air blowing though her kitchen curtains. They were sheers, and she had arranged panels in rainbow colors. On our kitchen table a rose bud was delicately  placed in a simple vase. In the fall there were brilliant leaves, on that table and pine cones or maybe copper colored chrysanthemums from our garden in a pitcher or a basket.


When we had company for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or some other grand event, our kitchen table was moved out into the living room. We put the extender in the table for more people, and the spread was absolute magnificence, and again so lovely.

Mom had collected dishes as grocery store premiums and had a matching set for 12. These were our good dishes. Company dishes.  Holiday dishes. They were yellow and gold around the rim with a spray of wheat swaying in the middle.  The dishes were a  treasure to us because of our prairie and the waves of wheat we could see clear into the horizon right before harvest.

I still hang out my clothes.

Jill McCubbin
Jill McCubbin

I’ve noticed my habit of hanging all like-colors together.

Never do I mix up shirts with pants. And I like my whites really white. The sun makes them whiter. Mom taught me that. She also taught me, without my realizing it, that looking out the window at a line of clothes hung “just so” is really, quite pretty.

Timothy Tyler

2 thoughts on ““I Put Out A Pretty Wash””

  1. Oh Carol! What a lovely piece! And the pictures are marvelous. So sweet and of another era. I too have memories of hanging out the wash for mother, beginning at nine or so. She was very particular about sizes being together, like washcloths, then dish cloths; then dish towels; then bath towels; etc. Then the tee shirts hung at the seams of the arms and folded over; then dad’s shirts. It was quite the study of poetry in motion. I also used to like to look at the sky and wonder where the jets were going, as their white flume streamed across the sky. I got quite a lot of diaper hanging done too, after Mary was born. And, then there were the pants hangers that we had to put dad’s pants on. Yikes! Those were kind of hard especially on a cold day. But, what a grounding we had in the art of home making. I remember when mother died that you were quite assured with your naming of mother’s first occupation: HOME MAKER. I don’t think some people have ever had a home maker for a mother.

  2. Thoughtful and beautiful tribute to your mom, Carol. I remember those dishes and eating in your living room. I also remember the pant hangers! My dad had them, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *