Traditional Sights

December 4, 2012


It’s the time of year when we Americans like to sentimentalize about domestic traditions. While it’s dark and cold beyond the walls, we fondly picture cozy family times with holiday lights, hot food, cuddly kids, shaggy collies. We revel in images of items so antique we may never have seen them in use: sleighs, carriages, top hats, roaring hearths with real logs. We long for drinks with the ancient names: nogs, grogs, toddies.

In that spirit, I was pleased to come across the scene pictured above, though it has nothing to do with winter holidays. Those blue patches represent what is now a rarity in our yuppifying city—laundry hung out to dry. The sight is so unusual in the middle-class districts that young tourists probably don’t know what Claes Oldenburg’s monumental Clothespin imitates.

Though many folks raised with electric or gas dryers consider clothes on a line sloppy, faintly embarrassing or even squalid, I find the old-fashioned practice appealing. I like homey items in general: well-worn rugs, cottage-style houses, women in flannel nightgowns. Such things speak of humanity. They are sturdy and unpretentious. Also, in practical terms, a woman under a flannel nightgown is a heck of a lot warmer on a winter night than one who’s been prancing around in a silk negligée.

I have to admit, though, that the admirable lineup of jeans shown above is nontraditional in one important respect. Look at the size of those waistbands—truly 21st century. Our ancestors could have fit a family in one pair, even after turkey, stuffing and multiple toddies.


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