Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stacks of Laundry

Most days, Kate will walk over from her job in the library and come to my office to eat lunch.  We eat and laugh and she draws cats and boats on my white board.  They are next to the smiley faces that Isaac draws when he comes--one for each day that he spends with me at work.  So far this summer, there are seven smiley faces on my white board.  There are also mooing cows, and Isaac's drawing of each member of our family throwing up.  It's a pretty awesome white board.

The other day over ham and cheese, Kate said, "Mom, I think it's time for me to start doing my own laundry."

I said she was probably right.

"I'd better learn how to do it myself before I move out in a few weeks," she mused.

We've had this discussion before, but somehow, I always end up doing her laundry, so she's never really had to take it upon herself to do it.  The same thing happened with Paul before he left home for the first time.  We both thought that he should probably start doing his own laundry.  But when it came time for me to do laundry, I just went ahead and got long as I'm doing laundry, I might as well do it all, right? 

And here's why:

There are many things that I don't do for my children.  Either because I can't, or because I won't, but there is one thing I have always, always done.  I haven't missed a day, or a week, or ever, as long as Dennis and I have been married.  I ALWAYS do the laundry.

The only times in my married life that I haven't done the laundry, every single week, from sorting to washing to folding to putting away, is when I have been out of town.  After the babies come, I do the laundry.  After surgery or illness, I do the laundry.  After vacation, during vacation, I do the laundry.  It's not that anyone makes me.  It just happens to be one of the household chores that I find great satisfaction in doing.  So I choose to do it.  Over the years, the kids have helped me sort, and Dennis usually carries the hampers to the basement so we can sort in the big space of the family room, but beyond that, it's all mine.

So here's the big secret, and you're going to think that I'm weird, but that's not the point here.  The secret is this:  I have measured my whole life, at least my life as a mother, by the laundry I do for my children.  At first it was just me and Dennis, our load of whites and our load of darks, and a load of towels and sheets.  It all fit in one basket at the laundromat.  Then we added little tiny undershirts and for a brief time, cloth diapers.  Burp cloths and hooded baby towels.  A whole new load of laundry with it's own sweet-smelling soap.

Then we added little pink dresses and overalls with flowers, and my all time favorite--ruffle buns.  You know, tights with ruffles on the bum.  We washed a load of whites, a load of medium-colored things, a load of darks, a load of baby stuff, and however many loads of towels and sheets it took to get the job done.  I had to load all the laundry hampers and baskets we had in the stroller to walk over to the laundry room at our apartment complex, and I went at 6:00 in the morning so I could take all the washers and dryers and not be in anybody's way.  When everything was washed and dried and folded and neatly stacked in the baskets and in the stroller, I walked back to our apartment and put everything away in it's place.  Very rewarding.

I did laundry for my family in Provo.  I did laundry for my family in Chicago.  I did laundry in Florida.  I did laundry in Minnesota.  I did laundry in Salt Lake, and ended up back in Provo.  I have stood for hours upon hours, folding shirts, socks, and jeans.  Jammies and jackets, hats and gloves.  Taking out the shorts that got too small, throwing away the socks with too many holes.  Making neat stacks for each of my children, and for my husband, too.  A stack of undies, a stack of socks.  A stack of jammies, a stack of shirts.  A stack of pants and a stack of things that need to be hung up.

As I have folded these stacks, week in and week out, I have watched my children grow and change.  I have folded Cub Scout clothes and Boy Scout clothes.  Leotards and tights.  Baseball jerseys and football uniforms.  Swim suits and snow pants.  I have also had time to think about my children.  To think about the things they need, like new socks, or time alone with Mom or Dad.  To think about how I can help, or how I might need to let them figure it out on their own.  I have cried over these piles of laundry more times than I can remember, for it is while I fold their clothes that I have my best insights into my children's lives.

When Paul left home in the summer after his senior year of High School, it was hard for me to see his empty place on my "folding table," (aka my bed).  I went from four piles of clothes to three.  I cried while I moved Kate's pile to the end of the bed, and I continued on with my folding.

Today I didn't sort Kate's laundry and I moved Wade's stack to the end of the bed.  Now I'm down to two.  The loads are all smaller, and I suppose we'll save a little money on laundry soap.  But I can't forget those little flowered overalls, the pink leotards, the brightly colored socks, and the ruffle buns.  These clothes I have folded as the years have gone by, these hours I have spent taking care of my family...

But now it's time to let them go.  It's time to watch them spread their wings and fly.  Paul is getting married.  Kate is going to college.  They are leaving home and making their own way.  And you won't believe me when I say this, but I'm really, really going to miss doing their laundry.


t.t.turner said...

I loved this so much. You are such an incredible mother (and writer!), and this proves that even the most seemingly mundane tasks can bring the most joy. What is it about laundry that is so therapeutic? I found myself begging Taylor to let me fold laundry last night!

Erica said...

Wow! I always read through your stories because they suck me in. I really like laundry too. So much better than the nasty dishes!! My laundry piles are just beginning. It is the circle of life I guess.

Rachel said...

This is the most fantastic, insightful post ever. You inspire me to think of laundry more romanticly. Personally, I would rather do the dishes than fold. Alas.
Please submit this for all sorts of blogging awards.
Love you!

Sharon said...

You are such a great writer! I'm amazed at how I too have started to have these feelings. I'm sad when my girls grow out of their cute clothes and I fold them for the last time before storing them in a box. And when Melissa wears something that Catherine wore, I can't help but think of how much she's grown and learned so far. I can only imagine what memories I'll think of while folding laundry in 15 or 20 years!

Snow said...

Wow. I'm not going to get "Mother of the Year" like all you inspired people above me. I hate laundry. With a passion. We often live out of the dryer due to neither of us getting around to folding clothes. My husband just told me he sometimes likes it. Good thing, I guess. But I enjoyed your post, and I still love my son's baby clothes. Hope you are well!


Lizzy Lambson said...

Marianne, I love this so much that I shared it on Facebook, which is something I don't think I've ever done with anyone else's blog posts. What a beautiful entry. I am already dreading that day when my children will take care of themselves without my help. There is a great need for mothers to feel needed. Doing laundry for me is something I know I can do well without fail. It is a strange sort of confidence booster. Folding is strangely therapeutic.

You really nailed it.

heath said...

I admire you. Laundry is one of those tasks that drives me crazy--I do it (sometimes leaving it in the dryer for days as well . . . ) because it has to be done (you can still use dirty toilets as long as no one is coming over, right? right . . . ???) but really you should at least have on clean underwear everyday. I wonder if my attitude will change when I have kids--kind of doubt it. But although I don't have time to do it as often as I should, cleaning bathrooms is my therapy, so I can relate, kind of.

But really, as everyone else said, what a beautiful post on motherhood. I envy those of you who can write about life so well!

Natalie said...

It's funny, the very things I wished would go away when they were little, are the very things I miss and crave and bring so much peace and validation to my life. I just finally retired Curt's laundry bucket after a year of him being gone :-(

Anna B said...

this is an incredible post, marianne. love it--you are a fantastic writer, sincere, funny, self aware, real. great post.

Poppa Paul said...

Marianne, you are amazing. What a talented lady you are. I also was 'sucked in' by your laundry post. But what am I thinking. After all, I taught you everything I know, didn't I?

Melody said...

I loved this, Sis. I cried all the way through it, and missed you and missed you and missed you so much it actually hurts. How I would have loved to be with you today and celebrate all the amazing and wonderful things that are happening with your children- I could have sworn it was only yesterday they were little monkeys going off to elementary school! Thanks for helping me to appreciate the laundry a little more too. I love love love love love love love you!