My mind does funny things when I’m folding laundry. It’s like all these little blends of cotton evoke some kind of memory train.
In her book, Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult opened with a list of things that can happen in the course of nineteen minutes. Among these, she wants us to see that a high school shooting can tear a community apart, but also in that same window of time, someone could fold all the laundry for a family of five.
I say that person has to be pretty speedy, because I feel like it takes me 4 ½ hours to fold laundry for three. I feel like Laundry is the domestic version of junk mail. No matter what I do, there is always, always more of it.
Sometimes I hold up a sock, and I realize there isn’t a single foot in this house that’s small enough to fit inside that sock. And I decide it’s time to reevaluate the socks, that if the socks don’t fit then probably half the clothes upstairs don’t fit, and that seems like one stupid ridiculous ordeal to clean out all the closets tonight, so I just put the little tiny toddler sock back in the basket.
When I fold sheets—and believe me, this is a rarity—I think of when Robb and I folded sheets together. How we did this kind of swing dancing routine with the sheets, this stretch and gather, and meet in the middle, fold in half, begin again, take your partner round and round.
And I think of how he always called the corner of the fitted sheets ‘the nipples.’ And how he always used this dry tone to say, “Grab the nipples, Tricia. Grab the nipples.” Always. He always said that.
And I always laughed. Always.
And I think of how he was so flummoxed by the folding of thong underwear and camis. We would watch marathons of Ross and Rachel on Friends, we would have laundry folded and piled in front of us, and he would throw a cami at me and say, “Here. I will never know how the hell to fold these things.”
He didn’t make very many people laugh, but he could make me laugh. And I kind of love that his sense of humor was my little secret to keep.
And I think of this fact every single time: folding laundry makes me feel like a mom. It’s one thing I can do for my children that is solely for them. When I clean the house, I get to enjoy the clean house. When I fix them a meal, I get to eat it too.
But when I fold their shirts in thirds, it’s just so they’ll have clean clothes to wear to school next week. It’s just for them, not for me, and gestures like that make me feel like a good mom.
And I’ll hold on to anything that evokes that feeling for a minute or two.