Laundry is the great equalizer. Everyone needs freshly laundered clothes. It doesn’t matter if you wash them yourself or hire someone to do it. It is a task that must be done.
Parents teach their children how to launder clothes as a necessary life skill. For many, wearing a pink shirt as the result of mixing white shirts with red towels is a rite of passage.
The life is laundry motif runs throughout my writing, most noticeably in my short story collection, The Human Act.
In “Fistful of Love,” a pregnant woman carries her laundry on her head, negotiating the stairs and the narrow walkway to the laundry room to wash and dry her family’s clothes. The narrator surreptitiously watches her through the peephole, infatuated with her. Laundry symbolizes the pregnant woman’s burden. Behind the safety of a front door, the narrator fantasizes about rescuing the pregnant woman and relieving her of her misery.
In “Randy Returns,” the narrator reminisces about her husband teaching her how to sort the clothes when they were newlyweds. The act of instructing a basic skill symbolizes the fundamental love her husband had for her long after he has passed away. It is a legacy that cannot be stolen. When the narrator washes the homeless friend’s clothes, it is an act of love.
In “Hope in the Laundry Room,” a woman loses her charm in a washer. The narrator finds it and returns it to her, sparking the start of a relationship full of caring and caretaking.
I have washed and dried many loads of laundry throughout my life, from the baskets full of soiled infant bibs to adult work shirts and pants and everything in between. I’ve watched colors fade and bleed, stains removed or set, clothes shrunk from XXL to XXS.
Laundering is as much a science as it is an art. No two people launder the same. No two items of clothing require the same care. Pockets full of tissue can cause a whole load to become full of lint. Candy wrappers may wash out just fine, but gum may stick and later dry on material that is hard to remove.
But no matter whether the clothes fade or shrink or come out just fine, we are all in this laundry of life together, and the lessons we learn are as necessary as clean clothes.