Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dirty Laundry

I really hate to devote a blog posting to laundry, but I don’t think I can help it. I gotta get it out there. Then maybe I’ll be done with it and can move on. Unless of course it turns out to be like laundry itself in the way that you are never really done with it. Ever. I know because I have tried. In the most stressful of times I use laundry as a coping mechanism. It started when my father died. It was sudden and unexpected, and I had the uncontrollable urge to see an empty laundry basket (back then there was just one). I needed to pack and make funeral arrangements and decide whether to fly while eight months pregnant or drive twelve hours. I needed to figure out how to tell my grandmother with Alzheimer’s or if I even should tell my grandmother with Alzheimer’s, but first I needed to hand wash that sweater that had been in the dirty laundry for six months and lay it out flat to dry.

Let’s just start right there with the little laundry instruction that clogs up my life. Reshape and lay flat to dry. Where does one do this? We’re normal-sized people without extra long arms or torsos, but my countertops aren’t large enough. I need my kitchen table again before anything would have time to dry on it. I inherited my dining room table from my grandmother, and she is monitoring its appropriate use from up above (I can feel it!) so that’s out. I suppose if I didn’t have pets or children or a husband I could use the floor. However, I do, and they show up here every day to eat and sleep, regardless of what type of delicate fabrics I am laundering. You might think I could close a door as a signal for them all to keep out while the sweaters on the floor dry. To my family, unfortunately, a closed door signals intrigue and possibility, just like in The Chronicles of Narnia or on The Price is Right.

So I’ve been forced to bend the rules, which does not make me happy. Printed instructions have a kind of hold on me. If someone has gone to the trouble of choosing a font and ink color, has checked the spelling, and has sewn an instruction into my apparel, I don’t think it should be disregarded. However, in the interest of sanity and to appease my demanding family (I’ve spoiled them, really. If they put a sweater in the hamper at the end of February, they just assume it will be clean and ready to wear by the first frost in October), I have been forced to do more of a wring and drape than a reshape and lay flat. It does result in a type of reshaping, only most likely not the type intended by the manufacturer.

I’ve talked with women who do two loads a day like clockwork. Their family’s underwear drawers stay stocked at half-capacity year-round. That’s fine if it works for them. Myself, I like to think I’m preparing my loved ones for the real world. Sometimes life is not all that comfortable. Nothing is a better reminder of that than wearing underwear that is two sizes too small or was perhaps designed for the opposite sex. At this point the best my family can hope for is for me to become overwhelmed or to feel out of control in some way. Perhaps I have been coerced into making the costumes for the school play despite the fact that I can’t sew. Maybe I have just learned that termites have infiltrated the entire house and it will collapse in exactly seventy-two hours. It is inevitable--before dealing with these situations I will attack the mountain of laundry and not stop until it is all clean. Only after I have unearthed my son’s lucky shirt, rediscovered my daughter’s missing Girl Scout vest, and outfitted the whole family in size and gender-appropriate undergarments can I deal with whatever life has dealt me.

1 comment:

  1. I do the same thing! If I have a plane to catch in nine hours and ten thousand things to pack and do before I leave, the first thing I will tackle, every time, is the laundry. It's the least vital. It's as if I need the laundry wheels spinning to get my own productivity spinning. And in the process of getting all that laundry done, somehow everything else happens too. Maybe it's a housewifely conditioning thing. We are at our most multi-task-a-licious when we're doing laundry as well as six other things, so if we know we need to be productive, we start separating whites from colors. Love this post!