When Hurricane Irma unleashed her callousness on the Rondarosa, it was hard to see the trees, decades old, fall.
“You can plant more trees,” folks said.
“But you don’t understand. I’ll never live long enough to see them that large again,” I replied teary-eyed. I mourned them because I treasure trees.
It was Mama’s backyard, though, that held the greatest disappointment. The top half of an enormous tree had fallen and bent over one end of her clothes line.
Daddy believed in building to last forever whatever he built. Even as a child, I knew that Daddy was the little pig who built the sturdy house and turned to the other two pigs and said, “You can huff and you can puff but you can’t blow my house down.”
Sure enough, Daddy built that kind of house. When a broken plumbing line flooded the house several years back and caused extreme damage, the insurance adjustor said, “If this house wasn’t brick and if it didn’t have such solid walls, it’d be better for us to total loss this.” Daddy had built the walls with concrete blocks. He loved cement. He either did the work himself or stood side-by-side and worked hand-in-hand with the electrician, plumber or brick mason.
When he placed a 30-foot tall windmill in the yard, he set the four legs in concrete so deep that it never crossed my mind that the forceful winds might tumble it. I was right. It did not sway for a moment.
So, perhaps, you can imagine the kind of 20-foot-long clothes line that Daddy built for Mama in 1957. He took iron pipe about four inches in diameter and welded two-inch steel pipe to the top to form a T. He made three of these, placing two on the end and one in the center. From end to end, he ran three rows of a heavy gauge wire, coated in a heavy plastic. Deep into the earth, he thrust the T-shaped poles and, of course, poured cement around them.
Mama loved her clothes line. It was always a source of pride to her. She would hang her clothes out in a precise order. Sheets first, towels next, dresses and aprons followed. On the backside where no one could see except for the cows in the pasture went slips and underwear because she was of a generation almost forgotten – one where you didn’t show girdles and panties.
Then, always without fail, Mama would step back, eye the wash and say proudly, “Now, that’s a pretty wash.” She was proud to have sheets and towels. It was a long way from what she had in the mountains from whence she had come.
“You can tell a person by the kind of wash they have on the line,” she was fond of saying. A person with a sense of decency hung the underwear in the back, for example.
Oh, the summer days I recall when Mama would say, “Run get the wash in. It’s comin’ up a cloud.” The screen door would bang behind me as I ran to gather the clothes, sometimes even outrunning the rain.
I always wanted a clothes line. Mama would gather her sheets up after bringing them in, hold them to her nose, take a deep breath and sigh. “Oh, how I love the fresh smell of sheets hung outside to dry.”
When I set about building a new house, Mama said wryly, “And, I hope you find a good place to have a clothes line because you have always wanted one.”
Well, I never put a clothes line up because I had Mama’s. Then a mighty tree fell and bent to a 40-degree angle the iron post. I don’t know how we can ever straighten it but we will try.
The post in the ground did not move an inch. The concrete held solid and admirably. Daddy would be proud. But not a bit surprised.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Please visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]