Every day is laundry day here at my house, and yet I never get ahead of it. Often as I sift through the nonsensical and bottomless monster that is the laundry pile, I think of how my mom did the laundry as I was growing up — and I amazed by the time and care she invested.
– First of all, she pre-soaked any soiled or stained garment (think manure-splattered jeans and grass-stained socks) in a bucket filled with cold, sudsy water. Sometimes, in an especially bad case, she would rinse, wring, and repeat with a second soaking.
– She neatly mended holes in shirts and jeans. The only items she would not mend were socks; she explained that mending socks was a futile effort in her opinion. Any garments that were loved beyond mending, she would tear into neat strips to be used for rags. (Yes, the day came that she’d accumulated more rags than a person could ever need in a lifetime.)
– She carefully sorted washing machine loads according to color. She always turned jeans inside out before washing.
– From the washing machine, into a laundry basket, she’d lug wet clothes outside to the clothesline — even in freezing weather. There she rapped each piece of clothing to sharp, wrinkle-free attention before hanging it neatly on the line — always conserving clothespins so that the left side of one pair of jeans could share a pin with the right side of another pair of jeans.
– If the weather on any given day simply prohibited hanging clothes on the line, or if the feedlot beyond the yard fence was especially odiferous, she would take from under the bed her little indoor clothes-drying rack and proceed to fill its every square inch with wet clothes.
– After the clothes were all dry, she sorted them again — some, like towels and underwear, went into the drier to be “fluffed”; others, like jeans and button-down shirts, went in the ironing basket.
– She would watch Oprah or Wheel of Fortune as she stood in the living room at the ironing board, lovingly spraying each garment with starch, then pressing it with the sizzling and steaming iron, then holding the clothes hangers in between her teeth as she buttoned shirts and hung them just so.
– As for the laundry that went to the drier for fluffing, I’ll have you know that she was always very stingy with a drier sheet. That gal has never been afraid to make a single drier sheet do several loads all on its own; she, by golly, is determined to get all the static-free goody out of it. When laundry came out of the drier, she neatly folded it all: underwear, pairs of socks, t-shirts, rags, kitchen towels, washcloths, you name it, she had a preferred method for folding it.
So. Let me tell you how I do the laundry here in 2017: I don’t sort colors. I rarely take the time to break out the bottle of spray-n-wash, even though we have our fair share of stains. I overfill the washer. I put everything in the drier and gobble up electricity like I think money grows on trees. I put a new drier sheet in every load like I haven’t a conservative brain cell in my head. I stuff the clean laundry in laundry baskets until I can’t cram in one more sock. When that time comes, I dump all the clean laundry on the dining room table, and it stays there until guests come to our house. I don’t fold anything, save grown-up jeans, and I certainly don’t iron anything. I don’t even fold socks because my husband and I are in the middle of a lifelong argument over whether or not socks should be folded (he votes no, in fear of the elastic at the top being irretrievably stretched)… and as a result, nobody in our family can ever find two matching socks. And, for the piece de resistance, when I do get around to sorting and putting away clean laundry, I just throw all the underwear and all the socks for the entire family into one giant drawer in my bedroom… and dole them out from there. Yes, my kids will have to take me to college with them so I can hand them clean underwear and socks every morning.
Oh, and one more thing: sometimes I lose track of what’s clean laundry and what’s dirty laundry in our house. I find that the piles just sort of… mingle if left unattended over a period of time. Also, I sometimes forget to put a wet load in the drier in timely fashion and so have to wash it again before taking it out.
My carelessness with our laundry is certainly not in defiance of the great care my mom put into making sure her family looked nice when I was growing up. Whether we were headed out to brand or to church on Sunday, our drawers and closets were always filled with clean, crisp, neatly handled clothes. The importance of appearance was a lesson learned well when she was very young, when her own mother would keep her home from school for a day of mending and ironing the Kuntz family’s clothes.
Two generations later, it’s not that I don’t want my own family to look nice… it’s just that I can’t quite get it all together like Mom had it when I was growing up.
So thanks, Mom, for all your hard work! And sorry, Grandma, for the holes in the knees of my jeans.
© Tam Blake