At the Laundromat


The other morning while taking a shower (I seem to have all sorts of genius revelations in the shower…), I thought about my mother and since our family didn’t have a washer and dryer at home (well, actually, we did have a non-working dryer, it had sat in the basement as long as I could remember), Mom had to make the weekly run with all of our soiled clothing to the laundromat. She sorted the clothing, bedding, towels, etc. at home–or sometimes I did, picking up the really gross things with my thumb and index fingernails, giving them a quick toss into the ‘whites’ pile. We had 3 piles: ‘whites’, ‘darks’, and then the really dirty clothing such as my dad’s work pants and shirts.  Each pile was stuffed into paper grocery sacks, wrinkled and softened from use, then one or two of us kids helped load it up in the 1967 faded blue Volkswagen bug, and off we headed for the nearest laundromat.

Mom had her pride; she was choosy about her selection of laundermats.  There were two important criteria: #1 It had to be within reasonable proximity to our house. #2, it had to be clean. She especially liked ones that had a friendly owner/manager on site as Mom enjoyed conversing with and getting to know people.

But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here: I want to discuss why Mom even had to go to a laundromat. I mentioned before the issue of the non-working dryer in the basement, the one that had sat there for as long as I could remember, covered in dust with various items laid on top–also covered in dust. I think the cord was draped across the dryer; as much as I knew, maybe the dryer worked, maybe it had at one time made some sort of clanking noise, or perhaps a belt broke. But at any rate, there it sat; no questions asked, nothing presumed, this is how things were at our house.

It didn’t bother Dad that Mom had to drive to the laundromat every week, just like it didn’t bother him that my bedroom ceiling leaked three seasons of the year, or that several generations of mice lived in the house munching through the saltine box in our pantry, or the time the rats set up camp under the house, or the front door on one hinge (we motioned through the window for unexpected visitors to go to the back door), or exposed electrical wires in the hall, walls without dry wall, nor the basement that flooded when it rained, or the rain water that was channeled into the garage, or the air leaks around the windows where Mom would stuff rags and old newspapers to stop the cold air, or the fact that I was in a corner bedroom with no windows and no fan… Nah, he was cool with all that.

On these frequent trips to the laundromat, my next oldest brother and I usually accompanied Mom. While she loaded the clothing into the washers, brother and I would push each other down the aisles in the metal wire laundry carts, flying around corners, laughing hysterically, and breathlessly stopping just long enough to rest for a spell in the Mid Century Modern sculpted fiberglass chairs. Sometimes, I’d neatly stack the reading material, or empty filled ashtrays. Brother enjoyed cleaning out the lint catcher in the dryers, and Mom might have found a broom and was sweeping up floor debris. I suppose, deep down, we were tidy folks.

We spent countless hours over the years with Mom; transporting wet clothing to the dryers, helping to fold, or just talking. Exciting things happened at the laundromat… brother holding up Mom’s undergarment and loudly asking, “Mom, what do I do with your girdle?”, and Mom sharing with me years later that she had witnessed a woman from a nearby brothel washing several loads of bed sheets. Once, brother and I had a most memorable event: the business next door to the laundromat, a barber shop, had been broken into the previous day. We found the owner sweeping up gum balls, as the gum ball machine had also been ransacked. The burglars stole the coins, but brother and I hit the jack pot as we were blessed to be allowed to take the gum… It was fine with the barber, it was fine with Mom, and it was extra fine with brother and I. We picked through the dirt and hair clippings and filled our pockets with handfuls of free gum balls. We had indeed struck it rich during that excursion with Mom.

The laundry done for another week, we arrived home and helped carry those warm, clothing-filled paper sacks back into the house. Dad was still sitting on the couch, soaking up knowledge from encyclopedias, newspapers, and magazines; we doubt if he had even budged an inch since we had left, and for sure, he had not accomplished any much-needed chores in the house or yard.

Mom, gone now for over twelve years, was a Christian. Dad, still living at age 94, is an Atheist. We never wanted to be around Dad, but we always wanted to be around Mom. I sometimes sit and think about all the regrets and sorrows Mom experienced as a result of being ‘unequally yoked’. Our family life was way off center from what it should have been if Dad had been a Christian. So, standing in the shower, remembering these events, this verse came to mind… “And we know that  God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28.

Mom and us kids suffered many hardships and discomforts directly as a result of Dad’s Atheistic beliefs. And I thought as the water ran over my face:  Dad did all those unkind, unloving things, but that’s okay, because we bonded with Mom.  Dad lost out. All things work together for good.