Clothes

I do the laundry a lot in our family life. I find it to be familiar and soothing. I like the process of choosing what gets washed, mostly based on color, occasionally based on “need.” Mostly color. We’re lucky residents of the First World, and we all have the luxury of a Plan A, B, C, D, and all the way to Z, in terms of “what to wear.”

Confession: I can get hung up on checking on the machine, one of those newer water-saving models that I don’t completely trust. Sometimes I get a conspiratorial tingle, as if the equipment and the water aren’t really doing what they promised. I think this mostly comes from the fact that the lid locks during certain parts of the cycle. I find this to be needlessly furtive. I mean no harm, and do not appreciate being shut out. Won’t stand for it, in fact, and use the “unlock” button often to make sure nothing untoward is happening in the basket.

I wash kids clothes. Not as many as lots of parents. We only have one squirt under the roof, and we’ve been blessed by many friends and their adorable hand-me-downs. We don’t yet feel the lure of buying new clothes, and sometimes a treat for Libby Lee is for us to go to Salvation Army or Goodwill, where she gets to pick her out a dress or shirt. It’s such fun to see what she picks, and the fact that it’s going to cost $3 is just a bonus.

I remember before she was born, washing the onesies and baby clothes that we’d received, that would soon be called into duty, as our anticipation and hearts grew and grew. Back then, I dried the clothes outside, on the line. I still love hanging clothes up to dry, part of the calm that the act of doing laundry holds for me; but mostly that’s upstairs on the stairway and some accordion racks that Lucy bought me. As I stood watching the pinned-up tiny garments against the blue late-summer sky, I remember thinking “we’re waiting for you, little sweetheart. We’ve got clothes for you.” I didn’t know my daughter yet, didn’t even know if she was a “she,” (we chose not to find out, a decision I will never ever regret, since the words “It’s a girl! You’ve got a daughter!” will always ring in my ears like the most dazzling music.)

I think about this whenever I do laundry, and maybe that’s part of why I like doing laundry. As I sort and fold my daughter’s many many shirts, dresses, heart-covered pants, silly tiny socks (footies, always, for some reason. Traditional socks don’t exist for her yet), I feel a kind of love and devotion that isn’t easy to compare to anything. Libby Lee doesn’t know the regular effort, the shadow labor that enables her to be capricious and choosy with the next outfit. I don’t mind. In some strange way, the most wonderful feeling — maybe the “why” of me loving to do laundry — is the idea that “we’re glad you’re here. And we’ve got clothes for you to wear.” Beyond food and shelter, clothes to wear are pretty much next on the priority list. And somebody has to wash them.

I’m glad that’s me.