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Sisterhood of the frozen pants

The story behind a photo of a woman hanging her wash out to dry.

Serendipity seems to be the hallmark of my local assignments. I had begun to gather my belongings at the end of a day in the newsroom when I received a request to photograph one of the activities of a budding environmental movement – hanging clothes out to dry.

Sigh. I had planned on heading home for a barbecue. Instead, I phoned a stranger to ask if I could take pictures of her laundry. We needed to do it right then since rain was forecast for the next morning. Marian Dioguardi was accommodating. "Come right over," she said. She then began to relate her childhood memories of helping her mother pin clothes to a line from a porch at their home in East Boston.

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"East Boston?" I perked up. "That's where I'm from." We reminisced about how, as little girls, we helped our mothers with laundry no matter what the temperature outside; we laughed about banging frozen pants against the porch railing. The scent of damp clothes as they defrosted by the kitchen heater permeated my memory.

I told her what street I lived on now. She brightened even more. It turns out that her parents are my next-door neighbors.

Now I was truly excited. By the time I arrived, I was greeted as an old friend. When I meet her folks at the backyard fence these days, I ask after Marian and chat about making a big Italian meal together. Sometimes photojournalism's investigation of the larger world brings me closer to home.


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