Airing the Laundry

When asked what about our upcoming move to Spain made me nervous, I couldn’t really come up with an answer. But now that I’ve been here for 24 hours, I can tell you nothing has been as scary as hanging Michael’s laundry out to dry.

“There’s really no dryer in this place?” Michael asked me, incredulously.

“In my experience, most people in Spain don’t have dryers,” I told him.

“Maybe this is a washer and a dryer,” he said, looking at the tiny machine stuffed between the toilet and the bathroom window.

“I doubt it,” I said. He thought I was being negative. I laughed. “Seriously, hon. They hang their laundry out to dry here.”

Having had this experience when we lived in France, I started peeking out all the windows looking for the telltale rack from which we could let our laundry fly, but found nothing. Michael hoped this indicated there was a dryer hiding somewhere. I was baffled.

The next morning, Michael informed me he’d found the answer. “I saw a bucket of clothespins in front of a window. . .” He showed me into the tiny third bedroom. I’d looked out its window before. “No–this one,” he said, pointing to a second window whose decorative glass let in light but nothing else. “Go ahead–open it.”

I turned the lever, pulled the window into the room and saw in front of me. . . a cement shaft. Four clotheslines stretched from our window across to the opposite side.

“You pull them in like this,” Michael said, showing me how the pulley system worked. Does he think I don’t know what these are? Perhaps he didn’t grow up with a grandmother who had just such a line stretching from her back porch to her garage. Except that Grandma Gallo’s clothesline was a hundred feet long and the shaft in front of me was maybe six feet across.

“Look up,” Michael said. I stuck my head out the window. Laundry hung from lines four stories below us — and six stories above! Slatted grates allowed air in while blocking out the birds.

Hours later, while Michael was grocery shopping, I pulled his laundry out of the washer and went to the clothesline window. I stuck my head out the window and peered down four stories. A pair of yellow shorts rested on the cement floor, a few clothespins scattered around it. It was then that a tiny spring of fear started to well up inside me: I realized that if I dropped anything, there was no way to get it.

Mindfulness has never come easily to me. When working on one task, I’m thinking of the next three. But this time? I focused on one shirt at a time, one clothespin at a time. After securing the first shirt with the first clothespin, I hung onto said shirt while affixing the second clothespin, then added a third for good measure. Each brand-new $13-per-pair Injinji toe sock? Two clothespins. His $22-a-pair Calvin Klein underwear? Three clothespins.

I’m happy to report I dropped nothing. And in the process, decided two things:

  1. Michael needs to buy less expensive clothing.
  2. Michael needs to hang his own laundry.

Postscript 1:

Me: I’m writing a blog post and I really want to mention your $10-per-pair Calvin Klein underwear, but I don’t think you’d want me to.

Michael: If you’re going to mention them, you should be more accurate. They’re $22 a pair.

Me: Seriously?!

Postscript 2:

Me: Did you really think I didn’t know how to use those clotheslines? The ones with the pulleys?

Michael: I wasn’t sure. They’re not like the ones we had in France, so I thought I was teaching you something.

Me: Wait — Have you never hung your laundry from a clothesline like that before?

Michael: What do you think this is? The 1100s?

Me: Seriously? You’ve never used one?

Michael: Of course not. Who uses those things?!

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