My manager recently said to me, in a gesture of reassurance, that she understood I might think my job is thankless. "No," I said suddenly, "Laundry is thankless." I have a tedious job, one that can be isolating, and sometimes the recommendations I make are stetted, the editorial term for disregarding a suggested change, but I never feel unappreciated or unimportant. I see projects roll from copies of text and art into final, polished digital displays or printed work. I see the means to an end, every day. Laundry, however...
As mothers know,
laundry is ceaseless. Washed and folded today, soiled and crumpled
tomorrow. The young people sheath themselves with sanitized, dried, and
pressed cotton in the morning, and by evening, the clothes are dingy,
crusty, stained, reek of body odor, smack of yard dirt, and need
rewashing, which we do-- again and again. I thought about this and my
manager's conversation with me about the importance of my work as I
packed my children's clothes the other night for summer with their
father. I had grouched at my daughter for folding recklessly and
inconsistently, and I came after her with scolding, instructions on
re-folding, and assistance. When the children went to the porch to look
for July 4th fireworks, I stayed behind, folding, stacking, and
smoothing, suddenly graced with the realization that this is the one
time my laundering is not an act to be taken for granted.
my children unpack their clothes at their father's, they will see my
handiwork in the neat stacks of t-shirts and shorts, undies and jammies.
The clothes I blessed one last time with purposeful, nurturing hands--
hands that cradled Tiny and Chicken Little as newborns, cleaned drains
and changed dressings post-surgeries, sewed Halloween costumes, and
stirred pots of gumbo, polenta, and sauce. They will see how tidy and
tucked into their luggage are all the essentials they themselves might
have forgotten. I will be there in clothes that smell like the detergent
I use and folded in the manner in which they are familiar. The children
won't think about it as keenly as I might, but I can rest in the
assurance that I have provided one last gesture that goes noticed at
their father's house long after my good-bye hugs and kisses have
evaporated from their skin.
Thankless? Not this time.