Update on the Laundry Maven

Early in December, I had stories bumbling around in my head about Christmas cookies. Having perused one grandmother’s metal recipe box and another’s hand-written recipes, I felt the stories were ripe for telling. A theme was coming together for December Hump Day Shorts.

Then the ranting and raving Laundry Maven appeared. She had been so quiet over the last few months, systematically sorting light and heavy darks, whites, and towels that I had forgotten how riled up she could get. She had been in a confident pattern of doing laundry such that there was never a worry about a uniform shirt being ready or clean underwear in the family’s drawers.

All changed when she was taking a dark load of clothes out of the dryer, and she noticed rainbow-colored spots on Will’s blue sweatshirt. While Will’s fourteen and a little old to be getting this much paint on his clothing, she was happy to see evidence of creativity. With a casual shrug, she set the sweatshirt aside to spray with stain remover and to send through the washer and dryer again. The other pieces of laundry were black, and it wasn’t until she looked at her own new pair of pants up close that she realized the rainbow colorization had happened within the confines of the dryer, not the artistic setting she had originally visualized. Red, yellow, and blue. This load held the most expensive and favorite heavy dark clothing owned by the family – with the exception of one item: 12-year-old Liam’s school uniform trousers.

The Laundry Maven does not check pockets – never has, never will. Well, actually, she does give Will’s trousers a squeeze around the pockets. Over the last four years, she has put two black pens and a four-way, red, green, blue and black pen through the washer and dryer. However, Liam doesn’t pocket his writing utensils; instead, the Laundry Maven keeps a running score of candy consumed by this kid based on the number of wrappers remaining in the dryer after every load of school uniforms.

With the dark load of laundry out of the dryer, the Laundry Maven peered inside to see three Crayola crayon wrappers with bits of wax still stuck to them. Their shapes showed no signs of being crayons pre-dryer cycle. Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played in the back of her mind upon seeing the rainbow dots scattered on the surface of the dryer drum.

I was torn away from my sister-in-law’s recipe and writing a grocery list to make her “Almond Sugar Cookies” to search up “how to remove crayon from dried laundry.” There was a major hit on Google when I pushed enter. It’s always comforting to know you aren’t the first, and you can bet money you won’t be the last.

The first direction sounded like that given to a soon-to-be-father when his wife will be giving birth at home: “Fill a few large pots with water and boil them.” Then, put the clothes in the machine, add laundry detergent, and all the boiling water. Add ½ cup vinegar and 5 tablespoons blue Dawn. Of course, vinegar and Dawn. The cleansers of cleansers and miracle workers of miracle workers.

The Laundry Maven heard a ring of laughter in her ear – that of her mother’s, the Vinegar Maven. The number of ways the Vinegar Maven uses vinegar… innumerable. “Just run some white vinegar through the coffee brewer, it will clean it out!” No. “Put white vinegar on your cloth to clean your windows.” No. (Actually, that “no” might have been directed more toward cleaning windows than using vinegar.) “Take a little white vinegar and…” No.

Per the Laundry Maven’s request, I purchased a gallon of white vinegar to start her down the road to erasing rainbows from the clothing. Once the Maven had added all ingredients through the boiling water, vinegar, and blue Dawn, she let the cauldron set and soak for 15 minutes. Unbelievable: The rainbow spots disappeared from the clothing!

Thinking the same concoction would remove the stains in the dryer, she ran beach towels through the dryer then took them out and immediately went into the drum with a cloth doused in vinegar and blue Dawn. The fumes of acidic vinegar hitting hot metal sent her reeling backward. Damned vinegar. She re-washed and re-dried the beach towels five times so that they would soak up any crayon wax from the dryer.

I’m reminded of this story now because the two loads of dark clothes the Laundry Maven did last week also called for hauling water to the washer. The cold water would not fill, so she carried three-gallon pails full of cold water to the washer from the bathroom around the corner. One pail was filling in the bathtub while she sloshed the other one to the washer – for two wash cycles and two rinse cycles. I walked stocking-footed through the pond left in her path.

Yesterday, we had a new washer delivered. I haven’t seen the Laundry Maven this happy in months. She spent a lot of time in the laundry room yesterday, aside from catching up on the mounds of laundry. The Laundry Maven lovingly stared at the cleanliness and listened to the quietness of this new and mighty machine.