Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dirty Little Secrets

At the risk of appearing a most old-fashioned biddy, I have something very private to admit.  

{photo source}

I love doing laundry.  It is by far my most favorite household chore.  It's been that way for years and years.  

Most of my friends roll their eyes and have an intense deep sigh moment over the need to participate in wash day.  I mean, they really, really hate it.   And I'm completely fascinated by that.  What's not to love?  This isn't toilet scrubbing, kiddos.  I can think of so many ways to spend my time that is less satisfying than doing laundry.  

But then again, I can be a bit of an odd bird sometimes.  

I remember being a very little kid and spending tons of time with my grandparents on their farm.  My grandma was a farm-wife in the truest form: she baked her own bread, made amazing meals full of food from the farm (meat, veg, berries and fruit, you name it), sewed up a storm, hung the wash on the line, and hosted a Sunday meal that could rival most Christmas dinner's I've had.  I loved helping her hang the sheets on the rusted metal clothesline just beyond the backdoor of the farm house.  The sheets and towels were always super stiff (I don't think Grandma has ever been much of a believer in fabric softener) and snapped in the breeze.  It was the perfect soundtrack for a summer day.    

At home, my mom has always been quirky with the laundry... not a big advocate of ironing, and definitely not a fan of dryer shrinkage, she made it a habit of taking out all clothing that could be hung dry after a mere 7 minutes in the dryer.  Instilling this technique into my dad and I  was not really a request from our loving mother/wife - more of a command.  Was it annoying at times?  Absolutely.  You could almost guarantee that pesky seven minute mark would hit at the most engrossing point of anything you were doing.  But it worked.  And as I went away to college and took responsibility for my own laundry full time, that seven minute mark stuck.  I saved big bucks (er.. quarters) out of my laundry budget in the dorms and in my sorority house.  I inherited the quirky laundress label.  It is one of the few quirks of my mother's that I have actively embraced as a grown person.  

In college, whilst living in the house I fondly (well... maybe not so fondly) called "the hut", I spent a lot of time out of the house.  That's a bit of an understatement.  I lived at my sorority house, only returning to "the hut" for sleep, shower, and computer-related tasks - and never before 10pm.  I pulled many all-nighters that year.  Many, many.  And laundry was my salvation.  During a paper writing session in the middle of the night, I would do my laundry. It was the only time I took a break and I learned to cherish those moments... in a house that was old, perpetually drafty, smelly and stale, that time was mine.  And it smelled good.  I associated laundry with a break.  Relaxing.  Reclaiming my brain in the midst of an academia-induced fog.  

A few years later, when I moved to Ukraine, the act of doing laundry became more of an adventure.  And by adventure, I mean a three+ day hand-washing process that more often than not included rubbing the skin off the top of my fingers, hanging it on the balcony in freezing temperatures only to return it to the apartment to thaw and dry on the radiators in shifts, and at least 2 hours of ironing.  For those playing along, that's a per-load synopsis.  You would think I would have hated it.  You'd think.  But I didn't.  Don't get me wrong, it was a hell of a lot of work.  Hard work.  I would work up a full-body sweat and my arms and fingers would burn and sting in a way that I've not felt before or since. But it was satisfying as all hell.  What started as a disgusting mop of dirt and funk became well-organized and good smelling.  I loved the ironing most of all.  After the laundry had hung on the line (~ a day in the summer time, at least 3 days in the winter), I would bring it in, dump it on the couch in a stiff, wrinkly mess, and pop in a movie (Trainspotting more often than not).  In those two hours, the mess became usable again.  And THAT was very satisfying.  

Now that I'm back to using machines and dryers and fabric softener again, I don't do so much ironing anymore.  My washer has a hand-wash cycle, which deep down, I do feel is cheating... but who am I to judge.  I still hang my clothes to dry, and cannot wait to have a space of my own where my dream of an outdoor clothesline can come to be.  And I still get a huge sense of accomplishment as the weekly pile of mess slowly turns into a usable, good smelling, well-organized thing again.  I love the way clean laundry makes my whole space smell new again. With last week washed away, anything is possible.   

It's a fresh start every week.  How can anyone hate that?

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