“Upon the clothes behind the tenement, That hang like ghosts suspended from the lines, Linking each flat, but to each indifferent, Incongruous and strange the moonlight shines"
The summer of 1968 in Ohio was stifling hot and seemed to last forever, but I was a five year old impervious to the heat and to the tremendous upheaval going on in the world around me. As I trotted through the backyards of my neighborhood in Upper Arlington, prickly stick grass poked the soles of my bare feet. Breezes were few in the middle of the day and colorful clothes and bright white sheets hung on the line stiffly and obediently under the midday sun.
I loved to weave in and out of the long, neat rows of clothesline that we shared with neighbors in our block of duplexes. The soundtrack of my summer and even my dreams was a newly released single by Mary Hopkin entitled “Those Were the Days My Friend." This was my place on the planet, my permanent home, or so I thought. I had no idea then that it was merely a launching pad for my upwardly mobile family.
By the time the next summer rolled around we had moved to a four bedroom home in a strictly residential part of town. My brother and I each had our own rooms for the first time, my parents’ master bedroom seemed absolutely massive, and we even had a extra bedroom room just for guests. There was a brick wall separating the family room and the living room with a fireplace in between that you could see through from both sides. There was a really nice dining room we hardly ever sat down to eat in, and a basement with a pool table and expansive front and back yards.
There weren’t any clotheslines in that newer, upscale neighborhood. We had everything we needed to do the laundry inside. Not only that, it appeared that it wasn’t fashionable or acceptable to hang personal clothing items and bedding out in the yard anymore.
I couldn’t walk down to the corner market with coins jingling in my pocket to pick up my favorite bazooka gum anymore either. The store was miles away and we only went there by car. Same with the pool, the park, the school, the shopping center and the sports fields.
My Dad, who used to hop on the bus at the corner in the old neighborhood to head to his job downtown, needed a car to drive to work too. So instead of making do with just one, we added another to the family fleet.
I adapted quickly to these changes in lifestyle. I suppose I even welcomed them. My parents seemed happy and after all, it’s much easier to get used to convenience and abundance than to give up things up.
Now I see how dramatically these incremental changes in lifestyle affected me and how, on a massive scale, they have played an even larger role in altering the climate systems of our planet. The truth is, I was born into an era and culture in the early 1960’s where conspicuous consumption was just beginning to take hold. Since then, having more than we need and doing things without regard for resources has become standard american behavior.
Now these standards must be unraveled in order to save the lives our parents worked so hard to build.
Many communities and subdivisions have ordinances in place which prevent residents from hanging their clothes up to dry. Does yours?
Until we restore these basic, unalienable rights, we will never get to where we need to be. And besides that, shouldn't every kid know the pleasure of weaving in and out of clotheslines on a sultry, summer day?