Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mixed Blessings

My definition of a mixed blessing is a woman with two washers and two dryers.The first time I conceived of such a luxury/curse was more than 20 years ago, when I heard a new neighbor had six children. My first words were, "Think of the laundry!" That's when I learned of her twin sets of Maytags.

Some people would worry about the grocery bills; others would develop a nervous tic just thinking about the cooking or the dishes. Not me. For me it's all about the laundry. There's a sign in my laundry room that reads, "When I Said I Do, I Didn't Mean Laundry." And yet I do ...Socks with sand ground into them, grass-stained pants and spaghetti-fied shirts appeared like thought bubbles over cartoon characters' heads every time I saw this woman and her Chevy Suburban full of kids drive by. High Tide, I thought.

Kids make clothes dirty in inverse proportion to their ages. For the math-impaired, this means a 2-year-old can get twice as dirty as the cosine of a 9-year-old, divided by the square root of your mother-in-law, and in only a small fraction of the time.

Laundry never goes away. As soon as the hamper is empty and every little outcome of your fluffing and folding is snugly tucked away, replacements materialize in the hamper, and they multiply. It's like a magic trick that the laundry gods play on us.Then there's the late-night afterthought, "Oh, by the way, can you wash these pants for tomorrow?" And that's from the hubby, not the kids - their survival instincts are better. Um, it's 9:30 on Sunday night, and you're just thinking now that you want these pants for tomorrow? With all the clean and pressed pants in your closet, it has to be the pair you have on? Sure, why not stay up late doing laundry? It's the way I most like finishing my weekends. (Sarcasm is just another service we provide here at Rubin House.)

Years ago I taught my kids to turn their clothes right-side-out and empty their pockets before putting clothes in the laundry. This was achieved easily, following two simple rules:1. Anything that entered the hamper inside-out was returned to its owner, clean and folded. And inside out.2. Gems, keepsakes and assorted detritus discovered in pockets could be claimed for a mere 25-cent charge. (These days I'd have to charge a buck or two.) Hubby, however, has had a full-time paying job (complete with pension), so I cut him a whole lot of slack in this area. I'm actually marginally grateful if two pairs of his socks see the inside of the hamper in a given week. Usually I have to gather them from the floor, either in his study or next to his side of the bed. When I marvel aloud about the treasure trove I've discovered, he defends, "But suppose there's a sock emergency; are you prepared like I am?

"What precisely, I ask, would a sock emergency be? Perhaps a naked guy with a towel wrapped around his waist rings the doorbell and says, "Excuse me, but my friends and I were just making a por - I mean a home movie, and I realized I'd look so much better with a pair of brown socks on." There you'd be to save the day?

"Good one," he allows."But why would you give him a pair of dirty socks?" I argue. "Wouldn't that be considered poor form?"

"Hypothetical guys don't need clean socks," he answers.

"But you're the real deal?""I am, indeed," he affirms. "My scattered socks and I are the real deal."I agree. But now I have a new definition of mixed blessing.

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