Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Laundry Service

I was at a friend's house recently, and he was dreading doing laundry. He confided to me that he just hates folding laundry, and I was entreated for my help. I was promised a back rub, at least I think that's how it went (in actuality my eyes were darting around the room looking for anything I could do to get a good rub) and the deal was sealed.  I stood up from my reclining position on the floor where I had lain, watching him unpack his bags from a ski trip that weekend, and stretched a good long stretch, then traipsed over to the pile of clothes on the bed. I reached for the first twisted shirt, pulled it towards me deftly turning it right side out and quickly folding it into a perfect square.  I commented, "I never fold laundry, I hang most of my things. I actually haven't folded laundry in a really long time..."

We weren't allowed any TV-watching during the week, but there was one little exception--if you were helping to fold laundry.  There were so many kids in the Harrison household that the laundry itself was quite a sight to behold.  We had an extremely organized system (hashtag: military family) that included blue and green square plastic buckets, their corners white where the plastic had slowly stretched over time.  The buckets would be filled with clothing in the master bedroom, then delivered to each child's room in turn.  We were expected to put the clothes away within a day or so, and then deposit the buckets back into the master bedroom, alongside the tall dresser by the door.  They stacked perfectly.
My mother would sort the clothes into darks, lights, and whites, and the warm articles of cloth would cascade onto the foot-end of the water bed in the master bedroom directly from the dryer, the weight causing ripples to erupt across the bed as well as the buckets on the head-end of the bed to knock into one another with a dull, plastic-y sound.  The buckets were lined up in an orderly fashion, sides touching sides, creating a big square of squares.  Mother and child would stand next to one another, the mother: folding, whistling, watching; the child: clutching a piece of clothing in their limp arms, staring at the TV, slack-jawed.  The whistling was constantly interrupted with a, "keep folding!" and the child's hands would search out a new piece of clothing to fold ever so slowly, all the while eyes glued to the precious shapes of light emitted from the television.

I prattled on for some time, and then my mind was deposited into a scene from many years ago:

My mother is in the master bedroom standing along side the bed, facing a TV that sits on a tall wooden dresser, flowers carved on its cupboards and drawers, across from her.  It's nighttime, but the windows are open, and the cool desert air softly floats into the room, the sound of crickets on its waves. My mother is whistling and watching Law & Order, she smiles as I enter, "want to help fold?"