I was in a recent conversation where people were talking about what they do when they are stressed. Someone responded, “I clean.” And another one responded, “I do laundry.”
I thought, “Hmm, what a strange way to handle stress.”
And then, the Laundry Maven said something to the effect of, “Damn right! The power is in the laundry room!”
After listening to her for a few minutes, I had to agree.
The Laundry Maven feels the rhythm of the laundry cycle and finds comfort in it. The decisions are limited from beginning to end because she set the rules many years ago. Constant decision-making and planning – the consideration of variables and foreseeing future moves as in a never-ending chess game – is diffused in the laundry room. During the breast cancer year, nothing was so stable as those piles of laundry.
The laundry instructions are short and precise. Sort the heaps into whites, darks, towels, and sheets. Spray the stains. Set up the drying rack. Retrieve empty hangers from the closets. Wash; then dry twenty minutes; then hang shrinkable tops and bottoms.
The Laundry Maven pays attention and enjoys the ever-so-slight nuances within, particularly the crackle of Liam’s shorts where plastic wrappers from juice packs and snacks have been stashed throughout the day. She doesn’t check pockets, except for Liam’s, and only his because they are loud.
Despite Liam never having met his Great Granddad Mills – Liam was born in 2006 and Granddad passed away years before in 2002 – the noise from Liam’s pockets consistently put him and Granddad in the same realm. Just as Granddad fiddled with coins in his bib overalls pockets, Liam has bits of plastic moving throughout the day. The sound of the plastic crinkling in Liam’s pockets aligns his and Granddad’s grins. Wash after wash, week after week, that noise brings Granddad and Liam into the same life sphere – albeit for fleeting moments – in the laundry room. If we stay there long enough, I see my grinning Liam looking up into Granddad’s grinning face, hands in their pockets, gum keeping both of their jaws in constant motion.
Beyond emptying those pockets, the biggest bottleneck in the laundry process, is the cyclical lack of hangers. Like missing socks, this must be a societal problem for often times the nearest store is completely out of stock. This was recently overcome by a click on-line and the arrival of twenty-five additional plastic hangers the next day.
Like a row of hay rolls in the field at the end of a hot summer’s day, there is a visual reward at the end of a day in the laundry room.
Then, the cycle falls apart a bit when it comes to putting clean laundry away; it may take a couple days. As the boys collect their piles of meticulously folded shirts from the laundry room, the Laundry Maven reminds them to put them in drawers, not in piles in their bedrooms, so the painstakingly perfect folds stay intact. I remind the Laundry Maven to dial it back a bit; that not everyone understands. Nor should they. The Laundry Maven is an overachiever.
On days when I don’t know where to start – when indecision and choices and problems fall in an unorganized heap begging for attention, I prioritize three basic building blocks: food, clothing, and shelter. Then on auto-pilot, the Laundry Maven steps in and says, “I got this one. No worries. You work on that menu for the week.”
I obey, comforted that the Laundry Maven has the sanctity of her kingdom in check. At the end of the day, the table may be cluttered and the countertops sticky. And without a doubt, the kitchen floor will hold evidence of the day’s meal preparation (if it wasn’t for the floor, I wouldn’t be able to cook). Despite all that, no one will be hungry and everyone will have clean underwear for morning.
And the next day, strategies for those responsibilities outside of food, clothing, and shelter will unfold, given that a solid base has been set with attention to those basic necessities.
And then, Linda Malcolm just might sit down to edit the recipe section of her book.
Or write a note to some friends.