Hiding our clean laundry


When helping my mother with the Monday washing, the first thing I learned had to do with the family's undergarments, which always were to be hung on the middle clothesline. On the first, closest to the house, hung dad's coveralls while the clothesline closest to the road was used for the bed sheets. This was done so that the undergarments were invisible to those traveling down the road, for constant in my mother's mind was the big question in life, "What will the neighbors think?"

I always wondered at her thinking process, but as a child of the 1950s, I never asked. Why would our neighbors, who typically lived a mile or two away, be comfortable with seeing our bed sheets blowing in the wind but be uncomfortable with our undergarments? Were ours so different from theirs and if so, in what way? I did get a set of pastel unmentionables one Christmas that were inscribed with the date they were to be worn. Would the family's reputation hit a new low should the Nebraska wind suddenly blow the sheets in such a way that gave the neighbors a wicked peek?

Mom and Dad's concern with the thoughts of our neighbors didn't stop with the family underwear. It lapped over into my taking a few moments to say good night to a boyfriend before going into the house. After all, what would the neighbors think? asked my dad one morning when I didn't get home until 9:45 the previous night. Never mind that the neighbors seldom ventured out after dark and our farming neighbors were in bed long before I got home. At the time, I wondered why my dad was awake.

The house had to be spotless, the garden weedless, our faces spotless, our manners faultless because of what the neighbors might think.

Today, we no longer have that great concern about what our neighbors think. Most likely, we don't even know them or they are doing something even worse.


Joyce Ore

Joyce Ore writes delightful stories about life with a dose of humor and sprinkle of nostalgia. Her column appears Saturday in the Tribune.

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