Today my son is marrying and beginning a new chapter in his life.
His first wife died on an impersonal operating table in a city hospital. The surgeon and his team were angry and distraught at losing her, as any good surgical team is. The staff was supportive and sympathetic. No one that young should die, they said. No parent should ever have to bury their child, they said.
How do I know? I was there with my son when they came in to tell us Meagan had slipped away to There as they sweated and worked to keep her here.
I also know because as a hospital chaplain I’ve witnessed a thousand such battles by trauma teams in city hospital ERs. I’ve found myself often alone with the physical remains of somebody’s dad, mom, brother, sister, son or daughter who just lost their fight for life here. The mentally-physically-spiritually exhausted team evaporates for a few precious minutes to shake off the loss before stepping once again in the trauma bay arena, shouting a defiant, “NEXT…” The chaplain is left alone for a few sacred moments to gently, lovingly make the sign of The Cross on that still body’s forehead, whispering the patient’s name and releasing their spirit back to the God who gave it.
I did that a lot, often enough that it became one of my most cherished ministries.
I never expected to offer that sacrament to my daughter-in-law.
I’m forever grateful my son allowed me to be there to give her that last little expression of our love.
By now you’re wondering why I’m bringing that up on the day of my son’s wedding to Jessica, the unforgettable young woman God’s brought to him after years of being alone.
I’m glad you asked. . .
Nothing in this life occurs in a vacuum. My son didn’t just pop onto this earthly scene as a fully-formed, strong, resolute, responsible adult any more than his lovely, talented, strong-willed, firm-charactered fiancée did. They arrived at this date due to years of solid, loving care and Christ-based guidance of two sets of parents who did their best to prepare them both for this new beginning.
Both Nate and Jess come to today a product of every day of their lives from birth until now. Their unique, individual stories comprise the rich and vivid colors that will begin being woven together this afternoon.
The colors and texture of threads of their lives to this point are as important in what starts today as will be the official ceremony.
So. What do I add here that will be an encouragement to my son and future daughter-in-love? Strangely enough, it’s something that comes from a previous generation – the one in which many of us grew up. See what you think of its value. It’s called
The Sociology of the Clothesline
THE BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES
1. You had to hang the socks by the toes… NOT the top.
2. You hung pants by the BOTTOM/cuffs… NOT the waistbands.
3. You had to WASH the clothesline(s) before hanging any clothes – walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.
4. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang “whites” with “whites,” and hang them first.
5. You NEVER hung a shirt by the shoulders – always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?
6. Wash day on a Monday! NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for Heaven’s sake!
7. Hang the sheets and towels on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y’know!)
8. It didn’t matter if it was sub-zero weather… Clothes would “freeze-dry.”
9. ALWAYS gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were “tacky”!
10. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.
11. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed. IRONED??!! Well, that’s a whole OTHER subject!
12. Long wooden pole (clothes pole) that was used to push the clotheslines up so that longer items (sheets/pants/etc.) didn’t brush the ground and get dirty.
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A clothesline was a news forecast to neighbors passing by. There were no secrets you could keep when clothes were hung out to dry.
It also was a friendly link, for neighbors always knew if company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the “fancy sheets” and towels upon the line; you’d see the “company”, with intricate designs.
The line announced a baby’s birth from folks who lived inside, as brand new infant clothes were hung so carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could readily be known. By watching how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown.
It also told when illness struck as extra sheets were hung; then nightclothes and a bathrobe too, haphazardly were strung.
It also said, “On vacation now”, when lines hung limp and bare. It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged, with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon, if their wash was dingy and gray, as neighbors carefully raised their brows and looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past, for dryers make work much less. Now what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess!
I really miss that way of life–it was a friendly, homey sign; when neighbors knew each other best by what was hanging on the line.
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So, kids–in a higher- and higher-tech world where the slowest thing you know is your microwave – well, and the guy in your lane right in front of you – we parents wish for you a discipline of discovering the values inherent in slowing down. There are valuable lessons to learn from things we grew up with.
Like back fences and front porches.
© D. Dean Boone, October 24, 2015