Random odd thoughts from this crazy old cat . . . .

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Laundry List of Laundry History

Ha!  Gotcha!  This isn't laundry history in general.  I am re-posting one of my old favorites on MY laundry history.  I have to work on figuring out this newfangled blog site before I go attempt to wash my drop cloths.  You are probably thinking that I'm on my way to creating new laundry memories but really we are talking spotted torn drop clothes and my new laundry mat guy is more than happy to show me how the machines work. . . . or maybe Honey called to warn him I was coming and he's just protecting his investment.  Ah, well, anyway now you will know how I have earned the fearsome reputation of washable warrior, clothes killer, stain enhancer, color changer (nothing to do with paint), etc.  Here you go:

We were always expected to be contributing members of the household while growing up. We had mastered dusting, vacuuming, dish washing, and a bunch of other household upkeep tasks. The last area to be conquered was the laundry room and it’s mysteries.

My introduction to the maintenance of clothing started somewhere in my teen years. I vaguely remember my mother taking me into the laundry room of our apartment building and introducing me to the washing machine. She made it sound simple. Separate the clothes by color. Whites in one pile. Colors in another pile. Dark clothes in yet one more pile. Then there was the "special" pile, the one you didn’t have to deal with on a regular basis. I think checking pockets before loading the clothes into the washer was mentioned, but I’m not really sure, it was a long time ago. Then you had to set the water level and the water temperature and select the correct fabric setting before you started the machine. Not to worry, there were directions on the underside of the lid in case I became confused.

Now I could borrow my Mommy’s nice clothes without her ever knowing. "Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive." Who said that? It didn’t take longer than a couple of shrunken sweaters and a ruined dress before I was banished to ruining my own clothing and never borrowing my Mothers. I should have seen the moral to this story coming, but I was a self absorbed teen with a wardrobe consisting of jeans and T-shirts.

Eventually I met X and we rented an apartment that had a laundry room. I could now develop my ability to turn ordinary wash and wear (permanent press) into something that would have to be continually ironed. There weren’t many laundry mishaps during this era. I was still in the jean and T-shirt phase. The kids were in the diaper phase and the diapers were covered in those funky plastic pants. It was also the trend for people to shell out big bucks for jeans that looked like I had been washing them all along. I fit right in. Life was good.

Then came the day of "THE GREAT T-SHIRT MISHAP." X received a box in the mail filled with T-shirts. His brother, who was in the Navy, began a shirt collection for X. Every time his ship docked in another country, he would pick up a new Tee for his brother. There must have been 25 shirts in that box, all from exotic locations on the other side of the world.

X left for work that day with one simple request, "can you wash my new shirts?" They are just T-shirts. I have lots of experience washing T-shirts. I separated them into whites and colors. The whites came through with flying colors, er, I mean they came out just fine. I didn’t even shrink them (too much) in the dryer.  Blues, greens, grays, blacks, all went into the washer. Then before I could put them into the dryer, they all turned pink. ALL. PINK. Or varying shades of pink. Even the black shirts if they had white pictures or letters were now pink.

God what a nightmare! I quickly put everything back into the washing machine except for the lone maroon shirt from the Philippines. I mixed a cocktail of cleaners that was sure to revert the shirts back to their original colors. It was the 1980’s for God’s sake. Who would have thought that 3rd world countries were still using non colorfast dyes? So for my future reference, maroon (or any dark red) would be washed by itself, and pink is the most colorfast color on the planet or in the history of all colors.

Not content to be known as "the kiss of death to fine washables," I was now becoming known for my ability to ruin seemingly indestructible clothing. I also put a serious kink into my new marriage.

Eventually X forgave me and we started our own construction business and bought our own house. Now we both wore construction type clothes. Spots, lumps, and tears blended right in with what we were doing. The only thing you could notice me ruining was the new washer and dryer. Apparently loading the washer with clothes that were covered with powdered "setting type joint compound" turns the machine into a home sized cement mixer. Then the extra weight on the clothing burns out the wheels or bearings that turn the dryer drum. My destructive abilities were expanding.

A few years down the road and my kids had grown enough to start forming opinions about what clothes they would and wouldn’t wear. Not only were they into trendy fashions, but they didn’t like their investment/clothing misshapen and spotted. We were also having skirmishes about their putting clothing that was just tried on, back into the laundry basket without it getting a real days wear.

After one particularly mountainous pile of laundry, and some nasty comments on ruined clothing, I made up a new rule. I called it, "If you don’t like the way I do something, do it your own damn self" rule. The great thing about this rule is that I could apply it equally to children and spouses.  The rule was really simple to implement too. I showed everyone the laundry directions on the inside of the washing machine lid. I read them to those who were still learning to read. Then I made sure the area was stocked with soaps, dryer sheets, and a safe step stool so they could reach the dials. Then I just stopped washing anything that wasn’t mine.  Inevitably someone would come crying to me 10 minutes before school/work started about not having anything to wear. So I would advise them to work on their organizational skills by making sure they had everything ready for the next day. Then I would reinforce that concept with some words of encouragement like, "tough shit." They quickly learned self sufficiency.

I didn’t completely cut them off. If I was washing a load of my jeans, I would throw in some of theirs to make a full load. Same with shirts, undies, or whatever color I was working on that day. After a few years of helping them out (with some minor designer screw ups), they made it perfectly clear I was not to touch their clothes.

Years later, before my baby was to leave for the Navy, I happened to be laundering some of my jeans and noticed a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans on the floor by the washing machine. I picked them up but before I was able to even contemplate anything I heard a booming, if not slightly frightened, voice behind me say, "Step away from the designer jeans, Mom!" I barely got a, "but . . ." out before he stepped in and snatched them out of my grasp and said, "NO MOM! I know you are just trying to help, but I don’t want you to ruin my $75.00 jeans." All I could manage was a weak, "whateverrrrr."

A few years after that and I’m in Johnstown. Early on Honey made it clear that he liked doing his laundry a certain way. I think my family was secretly warning him about my reputation with laundry. Either that, or his keen eye was sizing up my attire and my ability (or lack of) to care for it, or maybe it was the growing washing machine graveyard in the corner of my former garage. Anyway, we decided he would wash the clothes and my area of expertise would cover bedding, towels, and curtains. Ok, it was more like containing or limiting the damage.

Our first trip together was to California to visit my ex-Navy daughter, her active duty Sweetie, and my first grandson. We spent the day at the beach and once we got home and bathed, we threw our wet sandy clothes on the balcony where the washer and dryer were located. The next morning since I was up early, I threw all the sandy clothes in the washer. They were all shades of blue so I threw in some Navy uniform shirts and pants, also blue. I even transferred everything to the dryer.

My daughter and the kids were getting up and moving around when she stopped and asked, "What’s that noise?" I said, "I was up early so I threw the clothes in the washer and dryer." The color drained from her face. She turned to Honey and smacked him on the arm saying, "you let her do laundry??? What were you thinking?" Then she rushed out onto the balcony to see if she could stop the unstoppable.  Too late. She started pulling big and little pants from the dryer. All dark blue, they looked all right. Then she started pulling out her Sweetie’s Navy uniform shirts. The once evenly light blue shirts now had splotches of ink covering them front and back. She held up the evidence for the world to see and angrily yelled, "this is why she is not allowed to touch the washer and dryer." I left some money to cover the damage.

A couple of times last summer Honey asked me to hang the clothes that he had washed out on the clothesline in the yard. I was thinking it would be all right since a machine wasn’t involved. I was starting to feel confident in my hanging abilities, then Honey comes home one day and asked, "what happened to the clothes, how did they change color?" He says it was kind of comical the way my eyes got wide as I ran to the back yard to assess the damage that didn't really exist. It would have made a good April fools joke.

Presently, I’ve resigned myself to my limited laundering role. It’s much safer that way. My once white pillow cases are now a lovely shade of blue, but I like blue. The new washing machine and I are getting along just fine. Really, the thing intimidates the hell out of me, so I stay away from it unless I have to wash something.  Maybe the real lesson I need to learn has to do with letting my guard down, or getting too comfortable with the way things are. Just when I thought things were going good, or what could possibly go wrong, I wash the remote. Now this did happen on Friday the 13th, so I ask you . . . Was this a curse of the day or just another screw up in the history of my laundry screw ups?

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