My father was in charge of the laundry. As a young girl, I delighted in accompanying him to accomplish this Sunday morning ritual. I would press the mysterious “B” button as we descended into the basement of our eight- story apartment building in the Bronx. Before we entered the elevator, however, we collected all our quarters needed to operate the washer and dryer machines. We managed to complete the several loads of undershirts and underwear, the towels and turtlenecks of our daily life, with the quarters we had been hoarding in sundry containers throughout the house..
In between loads, we would visit the nearby neighborhood park where my father puffed joyfully on his cigar away from my mother’s watchful eyes and consternation. It was our secret and I faithfully kept it. Unless,of course, my mother stared into my eyes and asked me directly. “Was your father smoking outside? Tell me the truth.”
Smoking or not, my father mingled with neighbors and strangers alike. He was gregarious
and garrulous. I enjoyed his chatter with the people who presumed not to know me. “You must be Benny’s little girl.” But,of course, I grimaced. Who else would I be? Did they not notice how firmly I held onto my father’s hand?
Back and forth we went from the park to the basement and back up again until
the folded laundry was placed into our shopping cart and brought upstairs for my mother’s
scrutiny. She always separated the laundry into two piles. One belonged to me and my sister; the other to my mother and father. The laundry ritual continued this way just beyond my college years when marriage found me, and I moved with my husband to Syracuse, New York.
Suddenly and irretrievably, I became the CEO in charge of all family laundry distributions. Four children later, the laundry ritual was now a daily occurrence. Alone without my father's cheerful inflections, the laundry piled up in every corner of our two story Dutch Colonial house in Greensboro, North Carolina. Occasionally, my parents came to visit and my dad, once again, joyfully, participated with me in the sorting and folding of each piece of worn and torn t-shirts of every shape and size.
As each adult child entered college and left the proverbial nest, they lessened my load.
The laundry load. I was naively mistaken.
College was at the University of Chapel Hill for the two eldest daughters. UNC was a
mere hour away from our home and yes, they would often come home on weekends
to refuel. I mean reload. Before a hug, a kiss or a smile, their bright- colored laundry
sacks calligraphed with their embroidered names, were dumped unceremoniously just outside our laundry room So while my two college students refueled, I mindlessly loaded and reloaded the washer/dryer. By Sunday evening, the girls’ washed clothes were ready to go when they were.
“Thanks, mom.” They giggled as they placed their fragrant totes into the Honda.
I smiled knowing what they knew. Mom is always in charge of the laundry no matter
where you roam.
Currently, my four adult children reside in four different homes in two different states with their
children and their own assortment of laundry baskets. Laundry radar follows me from home to home, mound upon mound.
Nothing says “I love you” more than stacks of neatly- sorted clothing resting royally on the beds of my beloveds. The laundry? It is not over until it is over, which means, it is never really over. Really.