The Laundry Day Massacre
I was a reckless one back then, always challenging the others on the line to see how long we could withstand the weight of multiple articles. That is what we used to call them, the pieces which we were tasked with holding until the Mistress came and relieved us of our duty. Each piece told a different story and we often fought among ourselves to see who would have the honor of grasping the Tailored One. He was magnificent, hand stitched, quite slim at the waist and shoulders, made of 100% wool, in the signature style of our Commander. And on that day, I was chosen to bear the burden. Our springs did not even stand a chance.
We patiently hung at the ready, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Mistress and the daily articles. As we watched the sky pass by our line overhead, we could feel the moisture in the air begin to seep into our wooden pores. The sturdiness of my being began to soften into a cork-board substance, though I knew how much everyone was depending on my expertise and power. A crack in the clouds briefly illuminated our lady stepping out of the house with the Wicker Basket. The time had come at last to feel the warm texture of the Tailored One.
I gently closed down onto the collar and suddenly felt more weight than I ever have before. I strained at the downward pressure being applied by an unseen hand, until my flank was punctured by something. Shrapnel. I wildly looked to my side at my comrades, or rather what was left of them. Splinters, metal bits, wood shavings; Bodies hanging upside-down on the line with our sacred articles soiled from their downward spiral to Earth.
Thunder and lightning crashed and for the first moment, I witnessed the assailant. I had always thought that our Mistress wore a bonnet whenever she did laundry. I wondered if it was in the wash, as that was my second favorite piece to hold, it was always so nice and soft.
Never again would I hold the outfit of the Commander, nor any more laundry. My spring does not go back in its place anymore, the gash on my side will not close up anytime soon. I am the sole survivor of the Laundry Day Massacre, the day clothespins were put out of commission by a jealous member of the household.
If you have spoken with me for more than five seconds, you’d know that I have become borderline obsessed with Viceland. For those of you who don’t know, Viceland is the television station that is owned by the bizarre magazine, Vice. Essentially, all of these programs are intense, hard hitting, bizarre and feel a lot like a liberal arts student’s sociology term paper. One in particular I have been drawn to is Hate Thy Neighbor, hosted by comedian Jamali Maddix. This show follows Jamali around the world as he spends time with people that he says “live on the extreme side of life”, meaning extremist groups, and examines the racial tensions that exist throughout the world. Although the content sounds like it would be very intense and evocative, Jamali – being a comedian – always finds a way to make light of the situation. He is a very tall, slightly awkward looking, fully bearded man from England who has (in my opinion) an adorable, slight lisp. (Okay maybe I am a bit biased because I have a small crush on him).
One episode in particular that broke my heart and brought to mind the clothespin I had chosen, involved the NSMA: National Socialist Movement of America. More or less, the individuals Jamali spent time with were heavily into adorning Iron Eagles, Swastikas, and lived within what they call “Klan territory”. Despite their best efforts to come across as welcoming of Jamali – who is half white half Jamaican – the topic of the NSMA’s website turns the conversation unpleasant. I have the utmost respect for Jamali for being able to spend time with the people and never lash out or get upset, but this conversation is the one and only time thus far in the series in which you can see his emotional reaction. Jamali brings up that the NSMA website states if they came into power, abortion would only be allowed in instances of rape, incest, or if the child would be of mixed race. Upon further prodding, it becomes apparent the leader would insist cases involving mixed race children would be more or less mandatory. As Jamali is talking with him he asks why that is (to quote Jamali quoting the leader) “an abomination”. The leader claims the child would have an “identity crisis” being not fully black or white. Jamali looks seconds away from tears or a right hook to this man’s jaw, almost yelling “so I am an abomination then. My mother and father are guilty of the heinous crime of being in love.” Still, the leader insists he is looking out for people of mixed race as having an identity crisis and not belonging anywhere.
Looking at my clothespin, one piece of wood is significantly darker than the other. It still opens and closes just fine, each piece is surprisingly smooth, almost soft, and there are no visible signs of damage on either the lighter or darker side. Would these pieces still be functional with identically shaded pieces? Of course. Is the clothespin still able to perform the task it was designed for? Absolutely. Both the lighter and the darker piece come together to serve a purpose; hang clothes out to dry, keep a bag of chips closed, my roommate uses them to hold photographs on a string she put up over her bed. Each clothespin securing a memory or the faces of loved ones up on display as a demonstration of what and who she loves and wants to be reminded of. Thinking about Jamali’s encounter with the NSMA leader, I cannot and refuse to understand his point of view. Looking at this tall, silly, Wu Tang Clan loving British boy, I can’t see a mistake or a man in conflict with his sense of self. Just like my clothespin and thinking about the helpful and heartfelt ways it can be used, I cannot imagine a life without the people of mixed race I know and love. Kenzie, the first friend I made here at BSU by jumping into her dorm room as a total stranger to join her singing “No Scrubs” by TLC. That year was especially trying and she was always there for me as a supportive shoulder or someone to make me laugh when I didn’t feel like talking. My first, current, and consequently last roommate Alyssa. Being from the same hometown, we clung to each other as we charted out the campus, found out (the hard and embarrassing way) that longboards are pretty dangerous, no one moves out of the way for bikes, and both aren’t that great of ways to get around campus. The list could go on for a hundred pages.
Why is it so easy to look at a clothespin such as mine and have no real, emotionally charged reaction, but so hard to do so with human beings?
Wonderful, well spoken and thought out passage.
Don't know how or why i stumbled across your writings here tonite, but I'm glad i did. You put something beautiful into the simple, everyday clothespin.
Sandrine liked to hang from the skirt of her mother’s dress like the wool hangs to a sheep: always attached but drifting slightly in the breeze. There was safety in being so close to her. It made her mother’s work harder to with the extra body bumping into her and weighing her down but she endured for her daughter’s sake. Mother’s make sacrifices all the time, this one was easier than most.
Together the pair walked out to the clothesline. The laundry basket pressed against the mother’s left hip instead of the right as usual. A blooming bruise made her hip too tender to hold a basket against. Instead, Sandrine gripped that side, her hand bunching the skirt up just under the bruise. Sandrine had been put in charge of the small pail of clothespins, a duty that she took very seriously. The pail did not swing, the pins did not rattle around, and her gaze stayed on the line in the distance. Her mother worried about the innocence of the child in these moments.
Being a young girl of barely 6 the line swayed out of her reach, hanging above her. She could, however, easily reach the basket and the pail of clothespins. She would take a piece of clothing out of the basket and then grab two or three pins from the pail and hand both to her mother. Her mother would thank Sandrine and praise her for being such a big help or explain why the number of pins she grabbed was to many or too few. She always spoke gently to Sandrine for their house contained too much yelling and there was no reason for the outside to be similarly contaminated.
It was there, at that clothesline where many things were explained to Sandrine. She learned how to properly do chores, of course, but also listened to stories. Stories of her family. Her father, sometimes. Of the future, often. Plans of where to go and how to get there. Talks between the mother and daughter were sacred and secret and Sandrine was often reminded that no one was to know about them.
This annoyed Sandrine because she knew how to keep a secret and told her mother such. Her mother would crouch in front of her and smile, nodding that she knew Sandrine could, just wanted to her remind anyway. Because it was important, right? And Sandrine would nod back, all serious once more. A look that shouldn’t appear on a barely 6-year old’s face as often as it did.
Later, Sandrine will look back on these moments and realize why her mother weighed the secret so heavily on her. After a few more years of yelling, of anger, of blooming bruises that were harder to hide, her mother would use a plan. And Sandrine would learn there are many things that can be hung from a line.
Tightly coiled wire lives inside you, like the feelings inside me,
You’re made of wood,
Strong but breakable.
Although that wood can sometimes cause splinters,
If one does not handle you with care.
When you open your eyes, if you look deeply enough
You can see the wire.
You are not perfect,
For you have a few dents and a few rough spots
But when the wind blows and the rain pours,
You hold on tight.
A Clothesline of Memories
Looking at the clothespin reminds me of the warm summer days when my brother and I basically lived outside in our backyard. My childhood home was built in 1725 and is considered a colonial home in Norwell, MA. We had just about anything you could imagine in our backyard: a swing set, a blow up pool, a chicken coop, and a hammock. There is a rickety clothesline in the corner of the backyard that my mother used to dry clothes, towels, and table cloths. In the beginning of spring purple and white flowers would pop out under the clothes line and I enjoyed picking them and putting them in my hair. My brother and I thought of this clothesline more as a mini playground as opposed to a way to dry clothes and linens. We would attempt to hang on the clothesline (my mother did not like that considering the whole rope would droop down), climb the wooden poles, and I even accomplished climbing up the wooden pole and jumping off onto the ground. Back then the clothesline seemed big and tall but now as an adult I look at the clothesline and just see four run down wooden poles and lines that holds not only clothes but family memories.
When I look at a clothespin, I think of being a kid again running around and playing in the slip and slide in my backyard with my older brother. We always would set up the slip and slide under my mom's old clothes line. I would find clothes pins all over the yard and before we used to slip and slide I would check the yard for them before we would be rolling around the yard. If we slid over a clothes pin, it would not be a good feeling. As a kid, all I was worried about was having fun on a hot summer day, and a clothes pin was not going to get in the way of that. Can you imagine a wooden clothes pin skimming your stomach in the yard?
Almost broken clothes pin, still able to hold up the white linens. Close to giving up, yet not quite there. The possibility lingers to fall apart, to dirty the white linens. The option is tormenting, but the clothes… the pin still manages to hold. A weight which weighs heavy and heavier over time. A weight it must hold for quite some time. It gains relief when you pinch it close to drop the white linens into your hands. I am a clothes pin, close to giving up, not quite there. A full-time student with work. Not a single day off. The idea to let go. I still have one degree, will two more be beneficial. My body aches, but if I took my “job” to a “career”, I would have more money than ever with a societal career. A broken idea, such as the clothes pin. Why hang a rope line and hope the clothes pin withstands the weather? You can simply just use a dryer. The clothes pin is simple, yet it’s meanings deep. I hold the weight of many, not letting anyone down, including myself. The product of clean linens, a clean slate. A future brighter than the white of linens. A clothes pin withstands the test of time. I am a clothes pin.
Two pieces of wood clasped together by a single wire. It is a simple contraption that holds clothes, pictures, or even a bag of chips closed, it also holds memories for me. Grasping the item in my hand I flash back to standing in the drive way of my family vacation house. I can almost feel the rays of sun peeking through the branches to touch my freckled shoulders. I can almost smell the fresh linen being being hung by grammy. I can almost hear the wiffle ball hitting the duct tape bat. A clothes pin that holds more than wet sheets, its a clothes pin that holds priceless memories.
I look at my clothes pin and it reminds me of so much. One being work. We use a clothes pins with children's names on them. We place the clothespins on a chart with 5-6 different colors. Each color is given a title like "Good Day!" or "Call home :( ." I look at this clothes pin and think of how hard my students work every day to get their clothes pins on "Good Day". I also think of my students who struggle everyday to keep their clothespins away from "Call home." I think of how these clothes pins seem so insignificant to others, while to my students, these clothespins are sometimes the focus of their day. This clothes pin determines wether they are excited to go home, or terrified. This one clothes pin has the power to bring tears to my students eyes. This clothes pin also has the power to make my students proud of themselves. So much power in one little clothes pin that you or I may look over as nothing.
The clothes pin brings back memories of being a child. It does so because it makes me think of the pool we used to have. The tarp over it was kept on by clothes pins, and each year taking them off was a symbol of fun to come.
Not only was the pool going to be open; the pool being ready almost symbolized the end of school was near, which meant that school vacation was around the corner. Of course, being a kid, school vacation was the best, and something that we all counted the days down until.
However, the clothes pins also symbolized something bad. Because there would come a time in which it was too cold for the pool to be open and therefore the trap would have to back on, meaning the summer was over, school was starting, and winter was one step closer from occurring.
Not Just a Clothespin
When one is assigned a task such as giving deeper meaning to inanimate objects such as clothespins, one knows what he or she is expected to do. This assignment is valid and eye opening, although for some it may be hard to see that. The way we must write about this clothespin is the way we should look at ay type of inanimate object. If we were to use our descriptive writing skills in every day life and be able to see things in the world as more than what they are life will seem more beautiful.
When I look at the clothespin, I stuggle to give it a deeper meaning. But then it comes to me: clothespins could symbolize life before technology, they could symbolize simplicity. When I think of clothespins I think of school projects with the children from my work. I think of multiple uses.
I think of doing laundry before the washer and dryar were invented. Things were more simple back then, or perhaps more complicated. Every task that we find to be so simple today could take vigorous time and effort back then. Hand wash, and hang to dry with clothespins. This was back when most things were done by hand, when everything took effort. Maybe this is why everything was more appreciated back then.
When I look at the clothespin, I try to think of fun ways that I can use them in my various art and science projects that I will assign in my future classroom. I think of the simpler times, and I think of the simple yet beautiful and creative minds of the children who will use them and who I will teach someday.
My brown color withers away over the winter and I am forgotten. To be tossed aside is depressing. I lay here in box hidden and haven't had a second glance and wondering when the sun would come back out so I could get out and perform my duty. My metal clip still stays in tack as do I. I hope by the summer I will be able to be of some use again. I help do a big job for such a little item. The divots on the inside of my clip have been worn down. I see petticoats and bonnets along with overalls. I get picked up and swung on to the rope and stand there and hold on tightly. Blankets weigh me down, but I stand tall for hours and hours. I don’t mind since I am outside enjoying the sun. That’s what is so great about the sun, it hardens me and makes me strong. One may forget about us and the rain may come but we are taken away just in time. I know that the items will be put out on the line again the next time the sun comes and the laundry is done every few days and that is more than the winter so it is worth it. I sway on the rope like a swing. A strong gust of wind may come and tries to knock me off my post, but stand my ground. It is not until the human comes to remove me and put me back in my box and do it all over again. Sometimes a younger child may put me to use and can't always reach and is a struggle to grab on to the line, but I make it up there, don't worry. The years go by and I and I see shorts tank tops and yet the blanket is still here hung by a new face. I can't believe that the summer has come and gone. I do my job as a clothespin and I am proud of that.
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