17 November, 2010

The Laundry Line

It was funny what happened with clothing.

Sarah, the eldest, would get new clothes as she grew, and Shura of course, despite the difference in their heights and shapes, always got her hand-me-downs that tugged at her and fit her so poorly they had to be completely re-tailored. After the wear and tear of two children, the clothing was often too worn out for Eva, so she would also get new clothes. Shura understood the importance of frugality by sharing clothing, but she so rarely had anything new that was ever just hers— including shoes, which she found frustrating.

Thus, they had their roles. Her family. Her sisters. She was not certain any one of them had necessarily chosen these mantles, it just ended up that way.  She thought of them now.  She had been there what felt like only moments ago.

Second-born and nearly three-and-a-half years younger than her elder sister Sarah, Shura was born in the middle of a scorching summer. “Perhaps that is what made her so fiery,” her mother would tease though Shura’s fire was no joke. Shura was The Proud One. The One With the Quick Tongue. The One Just Like Her Mother— all of these roles got her into trouble— trouble she gave right back to anyone who crossed her. But that fire came from a longing ache inside, a painful disconnect.

She felt passed over, quite frequently, because Sarah commanded a lot of attention as the eldest, the homemaker, the first to wed— and Eva needed a lot of seeing-to (not least because she was such a dreamer, not to mention less skilled in all things homemaking, as well as “the baby.” She had not a hope there!)

So Shura often fended for herself.

It certainly didn’t aide in her assimilation that her other role, The Tall One, made her more conspicuous to any outward eye. Her mother and sisters were small women, sturdy and strong but with compact frames that bespoke humility. Shura’s height made her feel isolated and left out. She physically did not feel a part of her family and people endlessly commented upon it. A langer lucksh they would call her, a tall person, a long noodle.

People would joke, “how could this creature ever have come out of so diminutive a Mother?!” but the truth was Shura had always been long and lean, with slight feminine curves long before womanhood and a height established well before the age of twelve. Her father was a towering man, and Shura would almost have met his stature if it weren’t for her inherent slouchy-ness— a symptom, doubtless, of her colossal insecurity regarding the matter. For a long while, no one could see the developing curve of her breast, or the dainty curve from her waist to her hip, so hunched was she over her center.

One day her mother took her aside and gave her several baskets of linens to hang in the yard for drying.

“These are for you and you alone,” her mother instructed, “and come find me when you are done.”

Shura heaved the heavy baskets into the yard, and glancing upward was filled with the most glorious sight she had ever seen— new laundry lines hung from the amongst the higher branches of the trees, crisscrossing one another like the flight patterns of birds. The clean, white lines heralding hope and ascension. At the bases of the trees stood three little footstools, each one employed earlier in the day by her mother and sisters.

It was a reason to stand tall.

She brought one corner of the freshly washed linen to the newly lifted line and clasped it tightly with a clothes pin. She moved along and clasped the other and stood back. She watched as the wind lifted the sheet clear off the ground, cracking the fabric in the air with each gust.

And as she watched she felt her body lift—her head at first, her back lengthened, her legs taught, her gaze firm, then finally, her shoulders rolled back revealing her chest, her very heart to the gusty chalk-colored sky, her eyes locked on the linen—a flag of pride.

“All done, yes?” her mother inquired as Shura brought the empty baskets back inside.
“Yes, Mama.”
“Good,” replied Mama, not looking up from her chopping board.
“Done,” Shura added quietly, “with all of that...”

Mama continued her work— efficient, fastidious. Clean strokes and expert motions seemingly transformed whole vegetables into diced colorful cubes in what appeared to be moments.

“I thought as much,” she said, relieving the chopping board of it’s contents, “I hoped…” and at once, Mama stopped, looked up at Shura adding firmly, “it will not do for us to have the bottoms of our linens soiled because the lines were not high enough. We must aim them a bit higher, mustn’t we?”
“Yes Mama.”
“Good. A leben ahf dir. [1]

Mama moved closer to her daughter and gazed upward into her face. Her expression grave but still they shared a smile, exchanging warmth from each of their deep brown eyes.

Their fires were so alike.

Ver volt dos geglaibt? [2]” she muttered nodding, “Now come help me with this stock.”

Shura stood tall evermore.




[1] You should live! And be well!
[2] Who would’ve believed it?

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. Thank you. Looking forward to reading more!

    ReplyDelete

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