Laundry Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about laundry. Which, arguably, is not as productive as actually doing laundry–though I am loathe to say it’s not productive at all.

I am terrible at finishing things. Terrible. I start well, with great enthusiasm, but too often my good ideas devolve into good intentions and partially-completed projects. I don’t know why I do this, or why–after fifty years–I still can’t seem to improve on my follow-through.

I started painting the sign pictured above a couple of years ago, when we remodeled our laundry room. We had the wall cabinets that were there removed and replaced, and reconfigured the water access and electrical outlets so we could move the washer and dryer to the back wall. I picked out a cheery tangerine paint and hung a mirror Steve and I bought on a beach trip over the radiator. The long, narrow space between the washer and dryer cried out for something, so on a trip to the craft store, I bought the blank wooden plaque, originally accessorized with twine, intending to paint it.

And then I stalled out for a while, and only made progress–on sign and room–in fits and starts.

I couldn’t find any curtains I liked, so I ordered some fabric from Spoonflower to make some. I wanted to edge the sunflower print with stripes, though, and couldn’t find any fabric that matched the picture in my head. When I finally did, it was a single napkin in the clearance bin at Pier 1. I managed to track down one additional napkin after a multi-state search, and then let the material sit for a while, anxious I would cut my limited supply wrong and ruin it. After some months, I pieced the border on the curtains and hung them. Then I found an ironing board cover I loved, but the new ironing board I ordered was too big for it. Cue delays in returning and replacing the board, then mounting the hanger for it, and so on.

Finn posing with the curtains

Meanwhile, I started lettering the sign. I’d decided on “Love, Laughter, Laundry: Things That Are…” but I kept debating the final word. Endless? True, but not quite the ring I wanted. Eternal? Was laughter eternal? I couldn’t decide, so I set the incomplete sign aside on my craft room table. Where it stayed.

Last week I had a conversation with my mom. She and my father recently moved into an apartment in a retirement community, and they are enjoying perks like not having to plan or make dinners. While we talked, my mom was putting the bedspread she’d just washed back on their bed, and she said, “Even in the retirement home, there’s always laundry to do.” I laughed and said, “Yes, that’s how I feel about sabbatical. You think you’ll have all this time off from work, time purely dedicated to writing, but there’s still laundry, and house-cleaning, and you still have to bathe and eat. Life goes on.”

Life–and laundry–goes on: that holds true for “living through a pandemic lockdown” and “fighting cancer,” too. The first makes me feel like time stretches out endlessly before us; the second cautions me it’s a finite quantity of exquisite value. I’m thankful for markers of passing time, however mundane. They remind me that there may well always be more laundry, but there won’t always be more time. It is something to treasure.

I finished painting my sign yesterday, settling on the word “forever”–I like to think that laughter, like love, is a kind of constant: a joke heard once is always available for recall; joy is ever just under the surface, waiting for an excuse to erupt. I hung the sign on the laundry room wall today. Laundry needs must be done (to borrow an old-fashioned phrasing I’ve always liked), so the room where the work happens might as well be as bright, cheerful, and appealing as I can make it.

Here’s to love, laughter, and yes, even laundry, for the ability to sustain the ordinary ritual is itself a gift. Now I just need to find a way to replace that awful dryer buzzer with a soothing melodic chime….

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