Oh boy! Today the sun is shining and I jump out of bed, knowing that I need to take advantage of the morning sun.
It’s a great day to wash the sheets! (Yes, the expat life is downright exhilarating.)
My AirBnB has a fantastic, state-of-the-art washing machine, but like most of the places I saw for short term rentals, no dryer. I don’t know if this is a “thing” in Portugal, not having a dryer or just an AirBnB thing. I do know people complain about the high cost of electricity here (well, they did until people in Texas started getting hit with $11,000 electric bills), so maybe dryers aren’t standard.
We hang out our clothes here and a sunny day, after so many rainy and overcast and cold (by Florida standards) days, that sun shining (and me getting my butt out of bed relatively early) meant an opportunity to wash and dry the sheets.
The bed has flannel sheets which are a JOY and truly snuggly warm. But they take a little longer to dry than plain cotton sheets. I put them in the washer before I’ve even had my coffee. An hour later, they are ready for hanging.
Except of course, there’s really no place to hang sheets in this apartment. I put one sheet across the outside railing and the second I drape across the backs of two of the chairs. The pillow cases hang from the clothesline I have rigged up in the bathroom. (Finding clothesline was one of my “missions” when I first got here.)
There’s a small clothes drying rack that I use on a regular basis. It holds approximately one shirt, one dish towel, four pairs of socks, and a few pairs of underwear. It took me exactly one load of laundry to figure out the drying rack wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately I brought a jump rope with me so I used that for a temporary clothesline. It got more use in that capacity than it does in its intended use.
Putting clothes on a line brings me back to my childhood. We had a clothesline strung in a large rectangle between four perfectly spaced trees. With seven people in the family, even with a dryer, we needed a lot of hanging space. I am not as adept as my peasant ancestors, or even my mom, but I feel a connection with them as I clip my shirts to the line. I search back in my memory. Did Mom clip shirts by the shoulders or by the bottom? I do remember how my mom would pin the sheets, then use a shared clothespin to clip the next sheet or towel or article of clothing. It was an unbroken line of laundry that created a little private area. A tent with no top. We’d duck through the clothes and sit surrounded by laundry swaying gently in the breeze. It was our secret fort where we thought no one could see us. Dodging between shirts in my bathroom, my childhood memories are once again tactile.
And yes, the laundry does smell better when you hang it out in the breeze, unless you live in coal country. The difficult part here is that the railing is not the most efficient hanging space. The sun comes in at an angle and I suspect the wind does more drying than the lazy sun. Drying takes at least a day, sometimes two for heavier fabrics, which is why I needed to get the sheets out early.
I can look down onto my neighbor’s back deck. Almost every day there is laundry hanging there. His clothes. Her clothes. The baby’s onesies. I have often seen him hanging out or taking in the family laundry; I’ve never seen his wife. I like that. It would be patronizing for me to say that he hangs laundry as well as any woman. Or maybe matronizing. But he is efficient and does it as a matter of course, because it is a matter of course. She probably does it, too: “This needs to be done. We’re a team. Whoever is free does it.” I create a whole life for them in my head, looking at their laundry.
After several hours, I check the sheet on the railing, eager to shift the second sheet outside. It seems dry. Dry is relative here. Everything feels just a little bit damp, even after a day or two of drying. I live on the ocean. Oceans are really damp.
I feel the sheet. Is it dry? Yeah… kind of. I think so. Close enough. I’m just gonna go with it.
That is how I’m handling just about everything in my new life. Close enough is my new standard. The Oreo cookies are just a little bit different, but close enough. The hot water doesn’t last as long as I would like, but close enough. The toilet paper… well, there’s nothing you can do about that, so it just has to be close enough.
It’s amazing how many things are easy to accept when you expect that things aren’t going to match up to what you are used to and understand that you specifically chose that reality. I didn’t move to Portugal to get more of the same. It takes a little longer to do laundry or cook a meal or do the shopping and that’s okay. Because it’s not better or worse, it’s different. And I wanted different.
But some things are the same, just slightly out of time. Which is why there’s always a little smile on my face as I dodge through the clothes on my bathroom laundry line.