Because I'm one of these hippy save-the-world types, I firmly believe that Christians are called to love others sacrificially.
When said service does not involve laundry.
Or my family members.
When I brought my fiancé home one weekend, to meet my mother, she badgered him, "What color underwear do you have on?"
Shooting him a reassuring nod, I indicated that it was safe to answer. I suspected she was just looking for one more item to get a full load of white laundry started before lunch. Because she raised me, I did not find this situation the least bit unusual. I've since become aware that it may be.
Awkwardly confessing to wearing red boxers, my betrothed did not make the laundry cut that day.
He did make mine, though.
During premarital counseling, when we divvied up household responsibilities, I signed on for laundry. I wasn't thrilled about it, but I was fairly confident I could throw some stuff in a metal box and push start. How hard could it be? I did made it perfectly clear to my groom that, though I was raised by the Martha Stewart of all things laundered, I had not followed in my mother's bleached-sock footsteps. The laundry-apple, I warned him, had fallen far from the tree. Really far. Like, professional Dry Cleaner far.
Sadly, I still got the job.
Now a mother of three, the duties of Chief Laundress remain with me.
I'm in the kitchen when a loud thump-thump comes cascading from the second floor. Racing to the landing to check for injuries, I see my daughter's laundry basket looking more full than usual. Skimming off the top bed sheet layer, digging through her basket, I discover why. Amidst the stinky socks I find a brown tennis shoe, a dress she's never worn in public, a Hannah Montana wig, a perfectly clean bathrobe, and a plastic snow globe.
Hollering up the stairs, I inform her, "This does not count as cleaning your room, Little Miss!"
Inside, though, I'm secretly thrilled about the room.
I dump everyone's baskets into a snow-globe covered mountain of wearables in the hallway. Lifting some clothes into the washer, my dingy grey-socked feet stick to a dusty sea of sticky blue gel lining the linoleum floor. A liquid detergent jug had gotten jostled off the top of our washer, exploding like Fourth of July fireworks … Two Julys ago.
I kept shoving clothes into the washer.
Unlike my mother, I simply cannot face sorting lights from darks. Last week, in a moment of weakness, I attempted it. Once I came to a red and white striped headband I had absolutely no idea what to do. Forty minutes later my husband came home from work to find me standing there, dumbfounded.
"Stripes again?" he inquired with knowing compassion. "You know better than to sort, babe. Here, let me take those … "
If there was any possible way he didn't realize what he was getting into at the altar, he'd figured it out over the last decade.
This is why, today, I have returned to my usual practice of sorting by altitude instead of color. Scraping as many garments off the top of the heap as I can manage, I thrust them into my front-loading washer.
And my mom thinks I don't have a system.
Reaching for the liquid detergent valve, I'm sad and disgusted to discover we're on empty. Scraping a cup along the sticky floor I'm able to garner about a fifth of a serving. Reaching for the next closest laundering liquid, I fill the cup the rest of the way with bleach and toss it in, satisfied.
Ideally, the basket-to-washer-to-dryer-back-to-basket cycle will continue uninterrupted for the next several hours. This is on a good laundry day. Last week, though, once I pressed START, my royal duties as Chief Laundress completely escaped me. Honestly, I scaled that hallway garment mountain for days to get to the kitchen without remembering I'd started a load. My family will vouch for this. Two days ago, when my youngest innocently opened the washer door during a game of hide-and-seek, the horrible stench-o'-death nearly asphyxiated him.
"Mom!" he choked out dutifully, reporting of the machine sitting next to the dryer, "the wetter* is done!" (* "wetter"=big box next to "dryer")
Yeah, so I smelled. ("Bleach, you did not do your one job!")
I had not accounted for one fantastic thing in the premarital agreement. Child labor!
While my son was toilet training, I thought for sure that getting his favorite blankie back clean would motivate him to load the machine. That's where I was wrong. When I went upstairs to tuck him in last night, I found him resting under a beach towel.
It was pathetic.
The child who's given me the most help with the laundry is my youngest. Recently he's taken to wearing his Superman costume every day. And night. Which is actually a big help.
I was hauling laundry to the couch for folding when my daughter pointed to him and tattled, "He's been wearing that for seventeen days!"
I knew any self-respecting mother would have acted horrified. Possibly even as early as a few weeks ago. Instead, I silently mused, "Awesome!"
I immediately began scheming how I could convince the other two to embrace serial dressing.
Strangely, what actually does help me make it through laundry day-slash-days, is that it is a way to serve my family. One cumbersome stinky bleached way to serve them. (#donttellmymom)
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Margot Starbuck is a TCW regular contributor. Follow her on Twitter @MargotStarbuck.