I did laundry today. I pulled the sheets, damp and clean, from the washer and draped them over one shoulder, then rummaged around until I found the bag of pins and went outside. The ground is hot beneath my feet and I have to strain to reach the line but I clip the first pillowcase up and the wind lifts it out before me, twisting the sheets as I try to attach them next to the line and I remember -
I have barely begun elementary school. It is summer - the grass is brittle beneath my bare feet - and I am helping hang the clothes. I cannot reach the line, but I can hand my mother the pins and the clothes, and sometimes when the sun gets to be too much I go between the two lines and let the wind blow the shirts into my face and I take a deep breath of the still-damp sweetness of clean.
Later on, looking through the windows in the breakfast nook, I can see the sheets blowing in the wind, swinging in gentle rhythm. We get a lot of wind in this new neighborhood - breezes which help to cool down the house. The cats watch from window sills, but quickly lose interest.
My mother still tells the story of hanging laundry many years ago. We were living in Texas, or Arkansas - one of those hot, dry states we had brief uneventful lives in during my father's career in the military. She heard a rustling and looked down to see the armadillo careen through the dead grass and smash head-first into the basket. Proving that the intelligence of armadillos may quite possibly be on par with your average kumquat, the poor creature backed up, and then ran straight into again. It finally figured out that it couldn't go through the obstacle, and so shambled off in another direction.
The line takes some adjusting. My dad helped me put it up, demonstrating the knot I need to use to tighten it. I try it when he is there and am able to do it; now, alone, it comes more clumsily and the knot looks nothing like the neat turn he created.
I take down the sheets, now wind-dried and smelling of sun. As I gather them into my arms and take a deep breath of the fresh scent, I hear a sound. The wind has blown open the back door and cats are spilling out onto the porch, some cautious, unsure of this unfamiliar outside; others knowing exactly what to do. I dash for the door, shooing them inside, all but one, whom I let roll in the dirt a few moments more before reaching for her. With typical tortoiseshell attitude, she does not let me pick her up, instead stalking toward the door with offended dignity, one step ahead of me.