I’m thinking about my mom today while I do the laundry. My mom loved doing laundry.
The whole time we were growing up, she hung our clothes on the clothesline every Saturday: sheets, pants, tops, socks, dresses, slips, underwear. Right there on Grove Street for the whole world to see. I’m pretty sure we had a clothes dryer, but Mom never used it. She preferred hauling wet laundry, by the basketful, outside to blow dry in the wind. A little clothespin bag hung right there with the clothes, and Mom didn’t mind one bit the time it took to reach in for two clothespins per garment and pin everything to her clothesline. Maybe it was a game to her, managing the space and fitting everything in.
She also didn’t mind the late afternoon showers that sent her scrambling back outside to gather clothes against the onslaught of a thunderstorm.
No, gathering clothes in the rain was some kind of adventure for her. She would appear, basket overflowing, with a glow in her cheeks and laughter spilling out. Mom always considered herself the victor in a race against the elements. Once again, she had saved the clothes.
Mom took a pioneer woman’s satisfaction in clothes that dried quickly. She’d nod with satisfaction after 30 minutes of blowing in the breeze, gather them, and bring them back in the house, stiff as a board. Then she’d iron them.
“You know, you can put them in the dryer and not iron at all,” I pointed out once when I was a teenager. By then I had realized that nobody else’s mom dried their clothes on a clothesline.
“They don’t smell as good as the outdoors,” she said.
(That was true. There was something magical about slipping into freshly-dried sheets every Saturday night.)
As we got older and moved away from home, Mom had a laundry crisis. There wasn’t enough to do. I think she might have started taking in strangers’ clothes. She seriously walked around her house looking for something to wash. She gathered up laundry at church and work.
Whenever my brother or I came back from college with our dirty laundry, she excitedly grabbed our baskets and went straight to work. She did my boyfriend’s laundry and sometimes his buddies’ wash, too. She fairly giggled at the opportunity.
After I married that boyfriend and we moved into a shabby little apartment 3 miles down the road from her, I began doing my laundry at her house. (Hey, who’s going to turn down a free laundromat?) Inevitably, she took over the task. “I’ve got this. You go on home.”
“Why do you love doing the laundry so much?” I asked her, more than once.
“I don’t know. I like that I can start and finish it in one day. I love the smell. It’s my favorite thing to do around the house. It’s not like dusting. You dust, and everything’s dusty again.”
“But you wear clothes, and they get dirty again,” I pointed out.
She would give one of her famed, elaborate frowns. “It’s just different.”
I don’t know if you can inherit a laundry gene, but if you can, I have it. I like doing laundry, too. I like the sound of the washer washing. I like hanging things out to dry and pulling warm clothes from the dryer. I like everything neatly folded in everyone’s baskets. (Now if only they would put their clothes away instead of rooting through the basket!)
Many people hate doing the laundry. You might be one of them, in which case, you think I’m crazy. That’s probably true.
I start laundry almost every day. I always finish it the same day, even if it means staying up late. I like to know the washer is empty, the dryer is empty, and the hampers are empty. It’s a badge of motherly honor.
Do I like laundry because I’m a neat-freak? Because I’m psychologically disturbed? Because it reminds me of my mother? Perhaps it’s all of the above. I just like it.
Given, I have 25 wrinkly shirts to be ironed, but that’s another blog. I don’t like ironing nearly enough. You know, you wear something, and it just gets wrinkled again.
image by DJ Dell