14 December 2007

Housewifely truths

One of them is that laundry rocks.

I used to hate the laundry. It was this odious chore that had to be done once in a long while, with a lot of heat and noise and huffing and puffing and time away from far more interesting things.

But I have come to realize that laundry's been very, very good to me.

Someone at a recent grouping of many generations in the room queried about whether things were harder now, or back in the days when the elders in the room were raising their kids. My grandmother rushed to say, "Oh, things are much harder now. You have to worry about drugs, and...." She didn't want to say the other thing (sex). I protested, "But to have to use a wringer to wash your clothes, or go back to washing all our dishes by hand -- life is so much easier now in so many ways. We have dishwashers and washer-and-dryer sets and we have vacuum cleaners that really do suck up dirt. We don't have to live with the threat of a kind of squalor that it used to take this phenomenal effort to stave off. Then we have more energy to pay attention to the other stuff." No one won that argument; I know I haven't yet been confronted with drugs and sex in my child's world -- yet I also I know my grandmother would suffer greatly if she had to do more household labor.

I remember driving the hour again and again in delicious anticipation of another visit to my Oma's ranch-style spread, which had pavement and grass all around it, a few trees but not many, and absolutely none of the dirt that lurked just beyond our front door. Her carpets were white. My grandmother could wear her nice shoes when she went out because she would pull her Cadillac convertible into the garage (with its inimitable Eau de Auto, with perhaps a note of coolant from the big extra fridge in the same room, a scent equally toxic and irresistible). With a punch of a button she would roll down the garage door, and step out of her car onto the clean floor, and walk right into her house without walking on dirt, something I thought was nothing short of miraculous, having just come from our 400-square-foot rental near downtown with its postage stamp kitchen and bath and one teensy bedroom for the kids (my parents slept in the living room, something that might have horrified and fascinated my mainline Philly grandmother, who seldom came to our place). It was like being able to play in a kind of museum for me. She had TVs in several rooms and all the modern conveniences at her house.

We sure didn't, though. At home, we schlepped down to the laundromat, which was at least mercifully close and downhill, all the better for carrying the dirty laundry. Into my teens, after my parents divorced and remarried, my stepfather was the proponent of the in-house washer-and-dryer, but we continued our irregular schleppings from my father's house to the laundromat. After one memorable, epic laundry session, we arrived home positively crowing about having done fourteen loads (and I swear they were lighter after washing), but spending that three hours doing them wasn't really an experience I relished, no matter how hard my stepmother tried to jolly me up about it.

My husband grew up in a house with a washing machine and it is a wonderful thing. When we bought our house, he just assumed that it would have its own washer and dryer. To me it is still a kind of magic to simply walk downstairs, put your clothes in with a touch of soap (far less than recommended by the manufacturers, I might add), and to be able to pull out first some damp but clean laundry, and then to later pull out some dry, fluffed, and clean laundry, all without leaving the cozy shelter of your own home. What could be more pleasant, more agreeable? We even found a very efficient washer, yet another great luxury.

Maybe this is why I like to do my laundry when I'm home, why I like folding it just after its wash-dry cycle is completed. (Although I admit just as often I do end up leaving laundry for days in the dryer.) It's like having a fairy or a robot do my bidding. And the dishwasher is the same way. I realized I didn't mind putting away the dishes as much when I thought about not having been required to wash each of them myself first, and the same thing goes for folding laundry. Laundry is love.


Anonymous said...

". . .All watched over by machines of loving grace."

vanillagrrl said...