Sun and wind
She would always do the heavy fabrics first because they take longer to dry. Whenever she would finish a batch, she would wring them out with her fierce, strong hands made of steel -- she herself was large and stocky and looked as strong as a tree -- put them back into a large pan, and bring them out to where the clotheslines are, for hanging. One by one she would unfurl the fabric and pin them to the clothesline with long wooden laundry pins made of split bamboo that have been long dried out and become brown over years of use.
When I see her starting to hang out the clean, wet, laundry, I would run out in the warm sunshine, against the wind streaming down from the mountain, to stand in front of the flapping fabrics and enjoy the way they slap me with cold wetness.
The laundry would smell divine. I would be able to smell soap, bleach and the subtle but unmistakable smell of fresh spring water, mingled with the smell of the leaves and bamboo in the vegetable garden. I would be able to detect the aroma of the wind from the mountain, and smell the sun on my hair. I would run along the heavy clotheslines, laughing while the laundry flapped in the wind and hit me gently, prodding me to keep running. And when I would notice that my clothes were damp and also smelled of fresh laundry, that was my cue to skip on back home, tired and happy.
After hours of being hung out in the sun and wind, late in the afternoon, long after the lavandera had gone home herself, the laundry would be taken down by the other maids and folded into baskets. The laundry would then be brought into the house, and the whole house would smell like fresh laundry and bamboo. Even if it were already dusk, it would be like sunshine was still inside the house. That was when I learned to love fresh laundry.
Now hardly anyone ever does laundry that way, especially in the cities. Now sheets are fed into steel machines to be washed and dried, much like how we do laundry now in my parents’ house. But each time I get to hand-wash my own small batch of delicates in my sink and hang them out with plastic pins on a clothes rack on the balcony outside my apartment so they can dry in the gentle breeze, I stand there for a few minutes longer, invoking my own older memories of sun and wind and clotheslines, and of giant, clean, wet bedsheets happily dancing themselves dry in the orange afternoon.
[Image credits: 1, 2]