Why I Don’t Hate Doing Laundry

This morning I did four loads of laundry while reading a wonderful new book of poetry by Jacqueline Allen Trimble, American Happiness. (Watch for a review soon!) I was so inspired that I stopped and wrote a poem myself. I’m not a “real” poet, but sometimes I like to explore the genre. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Jonathan, age 7 months, March 1978

Jonathan, age 7 months, March 1978

Why I Don’t Hate Doing Laundry

by Susan Cushman

 

The laundry sorter stands between bedroom

and bath—its four neat containers

keeping our soiled items in order:

Darks. Whites. Perma-press. And

dress shirts to take to the cleaners.

 

I use a woven basket to transport

one load at a time to the laundry room;

It is the same basket that our first child

played in, almost forty years ago—a

memory captured in a photograph

that fills my heart with love on laundry day.

 

Even the darks will be sorted before

they enter the shiny front-loading machines—the nicest

ones we have ever had—which came with the house;

Sorting the darks? Isn’t that a bit anal?

Not when you consider that some are heavy

and others are light and need a shorter dry time.

 

The perma-press wants the lightest touch—only

fifteen minutes in the dryer and then on to

hangers right away, my hands smoothing collars

and shaking out the tiny wrinkles that remain

before they return to my husband’s closet

for another day, another trip, another meeting.

 

Whites are easy—warm, warm, white I told

our children when they were young;

cold, cold colors for everything else.

And thirty minutes on warm to dry and fluff

before the task of folding—taught to me

by my husband over forty years ago,

when he also showed me how to iron.

Skills he learned in childhood.

 

I do miss the smell of clothes warmed by the sun

on the clothesline I used as a newly wed;

Like the one my mother used—or sometimes

the maid—when I was young.

And so I often smell the white tee shirts and

warm towels as I pull them from the dryer,

hoping for a memory of those sunshiny days.

 

So much chaos in the world and sometimes

in our lives today, leaving me screaming

for order—for something I can control—even

if it’s only clothing and household linens.

I tried to control our children but now they

have their own families, their own chaos,

their own laundry. I wonder if they remember

warm warm white and cold cold colors.

 

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