I was so excited when my mother said I was old enough to start helping her with the laundry. I had already been doing dishes and cleaning the bathroom, and I was ready for something new.
My mother really took her time with our laundry. She cared about it. She wasn’t one of those moms who’d mindlessly throw a bunch of clothes in the machine and slam the lid shut without any thought. She taught me that there was a process to the whole thing, which included pretreating, cold-water soaking and hot-water washing with bleach for towels and undergarments.
On breezy spring days, we would hang the clothes on the line in our back yard. Hanging clothes was time-consuming, but nothing compared to the fresh smell of laundry dried on the line. I have never understood why outdoor clotheslines are frowned upon in some neighborhoods. Lined with colorful clothes swaying in the wind, I’ve always found them to be a cheerful sight.
I wondered why Mom spent so much time and effort on the laundry and ironing. I now understand that her attention to our clothes – the garments that touched our skin every day – was a unique expression of her love for us. Dad worked hard at American Optical around greasy machinery. I’m sure those days were long ones for him. Mom worked hard getting his clothes clean. No matter how sweaty and tired he may have ended his shifts, he could always count on starting the new day fresh. It may not seem like much, but in the midst of our daily struggles, it’s these little things that do make a difference.
I still remember walking up the driveway after school, seeing the light on in the kitchen window. I knew that waiting for me in my bedroom would be some freshly ironed shirts hanging on the door or a stack of neatly folded socks on my bed, waiting to be put away. It didn’t matter how long the school day had been or what drama had occurred there, home was always a comfort to me.
My mom’s childhood was very different from mine. Growing up, she and her younger sister were raised by a single mother. Their father left when the girls were very young. Since their mom worked full time, they were expected to do most of the housework. Seeing to it that my brothers and I came home to a clean house was probably the greatest gift she could give to us.
Love is not always found in the grand gesture. More often than not, it shows up simply, without much fanfare. It’s in the little things that we do for each other every day. A crisp, white T-shirt or a freshly ironed blouse show that someone really cares. Someone in the universe loves you enough to do these things for you. They love you enough to want to do them well. There are so many who do not have this.
I think that to be loved and cared for by someone in this world is a rare and precious thing. We never really understand the sacrifices our mothers make, the depth of their love, what they are willing to do for us.
As a mom, I love being connected to my family, laundry and all. Time is flying by, but for now we are linked. I still get to clean their clothes, to hang their shirts, to fold their socks, to be close to them. I love them enough to do these things for them, and to try to do them well. I’m glad I had a Mom who showed me how.