Monday, December 29, 2008

Stretching Memories

Nita with Piet the pincher and Tilly the goat, Allardsoog 1964.

Today's fierce wind, responsible for sending the last leaves on our neighbor's weeping birch far beyond our yard, could dry the sheets I pull out of the washer in no time. Especially the fitted sheet would billow, a white sail going nowhere.
"Come help me stretch the sheets." That line rings in my ears as I take the laundry out of the machine.
After bringing the sheets in from drying on the lines outside our house in the Dutch countryside, Nita would hold up two corners of the foot end for me to take. I'd mark the page of the book I was engulfed in, or weave the hook or needles through my crochet or knit work.
We'd fold the sheet in half lengthwise and once again, and then the fun began. Grabbing hold of the folded ends of the fabric, standing the sheet's length apart, we'd brace our feet on the carpet and hang back like water skiers behind a boat.
Upon my mother's sign we'd regain our upright balance, and I'd hand her my end. Then I'd pick up the fold and hand that to her. She would place the material on the ironing board for a last special touch with the hot iron. Three sheets was all we had to stretch. Home economics dictated that the (still clean) top sheet would be moved to the bottom, only the bottom sheet was washed every fortnight. I always tried to make the moment of trust —putting all of my weight in the scale— last. Back then I could not know the feeling that goes with the memory would last a life time.
Today I put the fitted and flat sheets in the dryer, and remember my mother Nita († 12/29/2002), whose words of wisdom and folly continue to ring in my ears (or speak to me).
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