You can tell your adult children about the good ol’ days, but nothing drives home the wonder of modern conveniences like having an appliance go on the fritz. Like most of us, our daughter Rebecca depends on her clothes dryer. When hers broke down recently, it threw her into a tailspin.

I didn’t find out about the dryer until days after it stopped working — and then the news didn’t come by phone, but via a text message with a photo.

Along with a stamp-sized picture of laundry strung from the house to a portable basketball goal, Beck wrote: “I’ve got mad respect for my grandmothers about now.” It took a few minutes for me to decipher what she meant; a phone call later provided the details.

Dryer on the Fritz

For several days, Becky’s husband Tim had been trying to fix their dryer. Dirty clothes piled up and up, and their daughter Phoebe, who’s 8, finally exclaimed, “Mom! I don’t have any clothes left to wear.”

Still looking for a part for the dryer, Tim suggested hanging the laundry out, which Becky thought was a good idea; off to Walgreens she went to pick up clothespins, $2.50 a pack.

“It took two packages to hang one load of Phoebe’s clothes,” Becky said, adding that the child’s biggest concern was having her underwear outside where others could see it.

Feminine angst about that issue hasn’t changed. Spark said Iva, his mother, always made sure hers was hung on the line in between the family’s sheets — sheets her five boys would run through in play, much to her displeasure.

Quite a Job

“Now I know why women didn’t work outside the home back then,” Beck lamented on the phone. “It took me all day just to do the laundry,” and she went on, amazed at all the time it took to wash and carry the laundry up the steps and peg it. Fortunately this occurred on the one day we had sunshine last week or she’d have had to hang her laundry in the basement.

I never walked 4 miles to school in the snow, but I do recall Mom hanging our clothes outside on nice days; she does too. “If it was a hot day, they’d dry as soon as you got them on the line.” And, oh, the fragrance of sheets aired in the outdoors.

As a young married, I had a clothesline and fought giving it up when we put on an addition and had it dismantled. Those clothes posts were set in concrete, like the ones in our yards in Gerald, the town where I grew up. They made an awesome home base for games of chase.

A Memorable Game

I vividly recall the clothes posts in my Aunt Shelia’s yard, just across an alley from our house — saw one of them up close when I slid into base on the wet grass one evening playing tag with my cousins, hurdling headfirst into the post with my buckteeth. I saw stars, and pieces of my teeth in the palm in my hand, not the baby ones either.

Just think about what kids are missing these days — losing teeth, the embarrassment of having your skivvies on display, at least on a clothesline, and the exercise gained from carting wet laundry and stretching tall to hang it.

Phoebe ended up benefiting physically from her family’s experience; last time I saw her she was doing the limbo under the sagging clothesline in her backyard. There was no reason left to use it for laundry —the family has a new dryer, and Becky has a newfound appreciation for her grandmothers.