First, I need to back up. I mean dirty laundry doesn’t usually yield itself to introspection, unless introspection includes cursing the wet laundry left in the dryer overnight because you forgot to turn it on. No, my contemplative musings actually began with my son’s two recently missing front teeth. My girlfriend hadn’t seen us in a while, and clearly the gaping hole in his mouth warranted her attention, to my six year old’s delight.
After their exchange which included questions about the elusive tooth fairy (who by the way was in default on payment because she didn’t have any cash, requiring money from her 10 year old’s piggy bank the first time. The second time, the tooth fairy fell asleep and forgot to submit funds thereby being saved once again by her 10 year old daughter. Clearly, the tooth fairy needs some management skills).
While they were discussing the tooth fairy’s magical attributes, my girlfriend flashed me “the look.” Her look conveyed everything I had been feeling over the last few weeks regarding all the open real estate in my son’s mouth. I knew that he was hovering on the cusp of cuteness for just a few more short weeks until his teeth grew in and the entire structure of his face would change. After all, I was overtly aware that his face had pretty much hollowed out and most of that chubby cheek yumminess was gone, his once curly crop of hair was now straight, and I could already see the buds of his new teeth racing each other to the finish line.
Enter the laundry.
A few days later, I am downstairs knee deep in rank laundry. I hate laundry. I despise laundry. I absolutely loathe laundry. I would rather have a gynecological exam than do laundry. This is evident when Mt. Everest sized laundry piles surround me at every turn. I have to don hiking gear to get from the washer to the dryer. The family sends out a search party when I am down there for an inordinate amount of time. You get the picture. Laundry.
This time is different, however. Still feeling that bittersweet reverie, I look to the laundry as salvation as I can be alone for a few minutes in a dark, cool room where the only noise is the hum of the dryer. As I methodically sort whites from colors, I begin to unearth items of clothing, that like my six year olds teeth, document my children’s looming journey towards maturity.
There’s the flannel doggie pajamas that my daughter refuses to give up. The pant legs only reach to her knees, creating a female Tom Sawyer effect. There’s her favorite shirt from kindergarten, that she wore all the way through 3rd grade, that mysteriously continues to haunt the basement floor, not to mention her size 5T shirt with the peeling, war torn decal of her and daddy on the front that has taken up permanent residence beneath the laundry rack.
My son likes to hold on to things “for memory.” Okay, I get sentimentality over certain items of clothing or toys, but seriously…what memory does he associate with dirty, disgusting, swiss- cheese like socks? He doesn’t like the adage, out with the old and in with the new, because that signifies change and while change can be good, letting go is really hard. Gee, I wonder where he gets those anxious tendencies from? Though I must admit, he eventually rallies, like when his sister left for summer camp for a month and he brooded about it until he acquired the highly sought position of…Director of DVD Transport Services. Just like that, he embraced change with an ironclad fist around the car DVD remote.
The basement floor is a “treasure trove” of lost items. I am finding items that had once mysteriously disappeared into the laundry abyss, only to have re-surfaced. These items tell a story, re-create a memory and I feel like a time traveler juxtaposed between two worlds. Perhaps I will find my grandmother’s antique diamond ring that I regretfully lost a few years ago. Not likely. Though, I did find an errant nursing shirt that may have escaped from a donation box and has been living out it’s days on the floor underneath an old panty hose pile (again, I am not proud of this people).
I smile as I put my husband’s dirty socks into the machine. These are his stretched out wedding socks that continually sag and droop around his ankles. He refuses to throw them out. I tell him how touched I am by his fidelity to his socks, as one day I will be saggy and droopy, and am glad to know that I won’t be discarded or upgraded for a newer model. He looks at me like a nutcase, and says, “you have been hanging out in the basement way too long.”
I add detergent to the wash and proceed to collect the random worn out, outgrown, faded and torn pieces when I spy a little lacy sunhat that had no doubt been awaiting its fate for sometime. I picked it up and fingered its delicate edges while being flooded with a mental montage of my daughter in the stroller. I gingerly carried it upstairs with me and placed it in the back of my closet, but never in the back of my mind.