We are looking for a home for our son. A place where he might eat and sleep the next four years, study a particular concentration, and possibly grow into himself a little more. This home-seeking has been a long process, an arduous process, and his father and I fight worry over the smallest things.
So, this morning, I do laundry. I want to make sure he has everything he needs for this next very-important-college-visit-trip.
I haul the soiled stuff down the stairs. I sort and load. I listen for the sharp beep that signifies the wash is ready to be transferred to the dryer. I fold for over an hour while the members of my household do other things.
They have been taught the finer points of doing laundry. On the days I am at the hospital where I work, they even endeavor to put this knowledge into practice. Sometimes. But mostly, the laundry is my job. I don’t like the way anyone else folds the stuff.
Before me is a tangle of arms and legs and toes and unmentionables, all twisted together and inside out. A mound of disaster. A momentous testimony to the days of our lives. I stick my arms into the wrong-side-out sleeves and pant legs and pull them through aright. I flatten out balled-up socks, find their matches. Most of the time I wash and fold clothes the way I find them, seams exposed and pockets flopping. It’s my way of teaching these heterogametics I live with. Only they never learn. They don’t seem to mind wearing a shirt wrong side out or letting the seam of a sock rub against a toe the wrong way.
Once in a while, I try asking. “Will you please turn your clothes right side out before putting them in the hamper?” And they do. For a short while. But it never takes. Not fully. So we continue on this way, an endless loop.
When I fold laundry, I sit on the steps. Each person’s pile of clothes is placed on a different step—tidily sorted—and stays there until the master picks it up to put it away. As I fold this morning, I take stock. The state of a kid’s underwear, a hole in the bottom of a sock, the frayed ends of a towel.
We are turning our son loose into the world and letting the world into all these frayed years we have tended him, held him, folded his laundry wrong side out.
Is there anything more terrifying than this?
“Raising children is a series of different kinds of letting go,” a wise friend once told me. “You never quite master one when it’s time for another.”
I turn the laundry right side out. And I practice opening my hands as the pile on the step grows higher.
higher on the map, leave
blooming redbuds for
flooded farmlands and
old stone buildings.
each ticking mile reminds
that your blue eyes have
seen all the graceless ways
my hands have touched
is love enough? a strong
foundation on which to
build a life? will you
remember bedtime stories and
long walks by the creek?
in your suitcase: cell phone
charger, laptop, two changes of
underwear. I no longer pack
your bags. if I did
I would fold up
all the short days of
our time together
along with your
turned right side out.
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