January 20, 2011 | Posted in: Family

I know exactly when it happened, my love affair with laundry.

My children were little. Greg 4, Chelsea, new. As a stay-at-home mom, I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that I was being buried alive in mountains of dirty clothes. As I sat there folding a load of whites and lamenting my fate, I decided I could either love this job or hate it. With that, the next piece of clothing I picked up, a tiny white onesie, I kissed. I had no idea where the spontaneous idea came from, but I went with it. I’ve never been the same.

I went on to kiss every article of my family’s clothing that day. T-shirts. Jeans. Underwear. Pajamas. Socks. Everything. I kissed each piece deliberately and with full awareness of what I was doing. Holding everything up to my face. Breathing deeply. Kissing playfully. With genuine affection. Or deep tenderness. Each piece making its own impression as I thought about its important function in caring for my loved one. My heart was grateful and I felt blessed to be playing the role of wife and mother to this remarkable young family.

Years later, at an appreciation luncheon for the volunteers at my children’s school, I had the great fortune to sit at a table where a half-a-dozen young mother’s were commiserating about our exhausting lives. “Grocery shopping! Cleaning! Cooking! Chauffeuring! Homework! Scoutorama! Karate lessons! Brownie troupe meetings! Laundry! The list is too long and OMG, I’m too tired for sex!” You can hear it now can’t you? 🙂

Seated at our table was a lovely woman, a grandmother volunteer, who hadn’t said a word as she listened to our chatter. Finally, with a wisp of sadness flashing across her smiling face, she said, “Girls. Be grateful for all your exhausting days. One day you’ll wake up and all the hard work of raising your families will be over. You’ll find there is nothing sadder than when it takes two weeks to have enough dirty clothes to do one load of laundry. That day will come sooner than you think. Enjoy every minute of this time in your life. They are the best years of your life.”

Wow. A Zen moment.

Though I never remember seeing this woman around the children’s school campus again, her wise counsel strikes me as profoundly today as it did back them. And, for years, I’ve known without doubt, she was an angel sent to deliver a life-changing message.

It’s been 20 plus years since these two events. My children have long since left home. Life remains demanding as I care for my husband, my life, and my business. It still doesn’t take me two weeks to get a load of laundry together but, with the passing of years, I can now see how quickly 12 loads a week became three. And, in the autumn of my life, I can see [that sooner than I could ever imagine] these three loads will be a distant memory.

Today, Thursday, is laundry day. As closely as I paid attention to this labor of love [and worked to enjoy every minute of caring for my children’s cradle-to-college clothes], I’d do anything to be able to relive those finite hours of grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring, homework, Scoutorama, karate lessons, Brownie troupe meetings, being too tired for sex, and folding and kissing all that laundry.

I’m probably older today than the grandmother who set me on the right road about enjoying the hard work of caring for my family so I feel comfortable in handing out some advice to all you younger householders. It might make a difference in the quality of the long life that lies before you.

If the exhaustion of caring for your family has you dreading the mundane chores of life (like going to work or picking up a mountain of toys at the end of a very long day or having to fill a babies prescription in the middle of the night), I encourage you to have a love affair similar to mine.

First, it doesn’t have to be with laundry. Choosing to love mowing the grass your children play on, or washing the car your wife drives, or running endless errands generated by your crew, is a wonderful alternative to feeling put out, overworked or under appreciated. Second, a day comes, much sooner than you think, when there won’t be a thing to hold tightly, to breathe in deeply, and to kiss tenderly. So mow and wash and cook and clean and fall into bed at night, completely spent, and, finally, hold on tight and kiss as if your life depends on it. Because, in truth, it does.

Baby

Chelsea at about the age I fell head over heels in love with laundry.

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Twenty-four years later, my granddaughter, Sophie (at about the same age as Chelsea was when I fell for laundry) and, yes, I’ve kissed every single piece of her clothing that I’ve been privileged to wash.

Time passes quickly.

Choose your love affairs carefully.

Did I tell you I love laundry?

Life well spent [doing laundry] is long.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci