At 3p.m. on Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, I am lying on the couch with Michael on my chest, radiating heat and crying. I’ve been home from my parents’ cookout for less than an hour, and it’s clear that napping in a crib is not on the agenda. Christian has volunteered to take dinner duty, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. Like change the laundry load, the ones that contains Alex’s sheets and Julianna’s sneakers, which she caked with mud at the farm the day before.
This is when you enlist the help of the big kids. “Alex,” I call. “I need you to run upstairs and switch the loads in the laundry for me.”
He looks at me with puzzlement.
“Take the clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer,” I say patiently. “Put a dryer sheet in, and set it for 45 minutes.”
He heads upstairs. Michael continues to fret and cry. Five minutes pass. Then, Alex appears around the corner of the wall halfway up the stairs. “Mommy, the washing machine just started up again, all by itself.”
Sighing, I labor to my feet with 26 pounds of unhappy toddler attached, and head upstairs. For some reason, the banisters are all wet. Weird. Upstairs, I pause and survey the laundry room floor, which is…wet. Freeze-it-and-you’d-have-an-ice-rink wet. “What the…?” I look in the dryer, and I see dripping wet sheets. Dripping.
My mistake was assuming the lack of sound from upstairs meant the washing machine had finished running. For the first time I see a disadvantage to the child who obeys without question! “Alex, did you pull these out of the water?”
“Alex! Have you ever seen me pull clothes out of water to put them in the dryer?”
Several expressions cross his face. “Um, no.”
Michael cries some more. Christian’s making dinner. And I have the almighty mess of water sitting on my second floor.
Sometimes, motherhood is all about split-second judgment calls, right? “Okay, Michael, you are going back to bed,” I say, and march him into his room. “Alex, bring me towels. A lot of towels.”
I strip off my socks and wade in. Step one: move the dripping sheets back into the washer and let the machine finish its cycle.
Now, let me explain my laundry room. It measures six feet by six feet, 2/3 of which is occupied by the washer and dryer. What’s left is a walkway across one wall. In other words, there’s no room to work in here. The water goes back under the washer and dryer. I send Alex for the mop bucket and pull out the dryer. Then I see the disaster of lint and debris under it, which is now slowly absorbing water and turning to slime.
The mop will not help. This is a job for rags. Lots of rags.
Across the hall, Michael starts wailing again. I grrrr and accept the fact that he and I are both going to have to put up with the unpleasantness, because fever or no fever, the cleaning job has to take priority.
I maneuver behind the dryer and clean up the slime, using the mop bucket as a wring-out pail. The foil tube that connects to the lint egress is disconnected, but I can’t put it back on, because there’s no room to work. I have to move the washing machine out to make room. I slide the dryer back to make room for the washer, then use the machines and the tubes & cords as a junglegym. There’s more slime under the washer. I get it clean and then realize I have to have wrenches to get the lint tube. I flop back, sweaty and uncomfortable, and send Alex to get the necessary tools. It takes him forever. At least Michael’s settled down. Maybe he’ll actually nap this time.
A few minutes of wrestling and we’re done at last. I exit the junglegym and push both washer and dryer into place. And now there’s more water on the floor. What the….????
Then I remember: water in the drum of the dryer.
More towels. More wringing. More floor wiping. (At least the room’s getting a good cleaning.)
At length, we have almost a full washer-load of filthy towels and rags. I load the washer again, and at last I’m finished…just in time for Michael to start wailing yet again.
What have I learned today? I’ve learned that even my 8-year-old needs explicit, clear instructions for EV.ER.Y.THING.
This, I think is a lesson I needed made clear at the start of summer break “daily chore” season. Although I think I could have learned it without quite that big a mess.
Question for you: I know you all have stories you can tell. Hit me, folks. I need to know I’m not the only one! Except Mom. Mom, if you have any stories about me, I don’t wanna hear ’em. 🙂