There was no such thing as laundry day at my house. With nine kids, a father who worked outside, and no dryer, I wonder how laundry ever got finished; it seems like it was a chore that just went on and on. Permanent press was a mother’s fantasy: all those ruffles and pleats all us little girls wore had to be starched and pressed. Even sheets and pillowcases went in the sprinkle-bag waiting for ironing. No steam irons either. Of course, Mom had her own workforce to help out.
Mom sorted laundry all over the basement floor. Pyramids of different colored clothes, ’cause dyes in clothes ran out of one thing and into another in the wash. I saw that on “My Three Sons,” when Robbie’s wife, Katie, started doing laundry and got Robbie’s white shirts all pink from her red dress.
As the pyramids or laundry disappeared, piles of folded laundry, all separated into who-it-belonged-to piles, got higher and higher on the dining room table. Everybody helped with the folding. I swear Mom would make Johnny fold his own diapers, if he could reach his arms out that far. Diapers were easy. Socks were the worst.
I sorted the socks as I hung them on the clothesline, that took a lot of time, but then I could fold them as they came off the line. I saved time in the end, just like the dad in the book, Cheaper by the Dozen. That dad was an efficiency expert, who studied peculiar stuff like which was faster, buttoning a blouse from the top down, or from the bottom up. He timed his kids and bottom up won. I improved my life in all kinds of ways, just from reading books like Cheaper by the Dozen. Even make-believe stories had interesting stuff to learn about, like how to build a raft in Huckleberry Finn.
When we finished folding, a pile of clothes rested on the first six steps going upstairs to the bedrooms. I was supposed to take my pile upstairs and put everything in my drawer. Sometimes I did. Most of the time, I just ran downstairs and got what I needed from the pile. I supposed that was inefficient and for sure that efficiency expert dad would give me the what-for and tell me to straighten up and fly right. Somehow it seemed like too much work to carry all those clothes upstairs at one time. Besides, me and Bonita and Deanna and Vickie always played, “Slap the Bear”, on the way upstairs, and if I stopped to pick up my clothes, I would get slapped for sure, or if was the one in the rear, I everyone would get away from me.
Last came odd sock duty, ’cause no laundry came out with 1oo% paired socks. I hauled out the bag of odd socks, which was about big enough to cover up a set of twins if we had them, then I had to hunt through and see if any new odd socks matched the old odd socks. A few matched up, not many. Mostly that’s how I learned what one step forward and two steps back meant, ’cause that odd-sock bag kept getting bigger and bigger until the week before New Years.
Everybody knows that whatever shape your house is in on New Years Day is how it will be all year. That’s another reason for cleaning everything inside-side-out, and another reason us kids went on a mad hunt for odd socks: looking under beds and in toy boxes, and in the boot box on the back porch and out in the barn where I kept Ladybird’s brushes. I looked wherever I could think to look and some places a sock would never be, like in the oven and under the stove. Hey, I found a sock under the stove. You’d be surprised where socks can get when you’re not paying attention. Mom even took the washing machine apart and found some socks in there behind the drum. I know ’cause I was right there helping Mom tip the machine on end, so she could get in there and investigate the situation. That was a fun thing to do, not boring like laundry, just folding and folding, and ironing for hours on end and then all that putting away, which I hardly ever did ’cause next thing I knew, it was time to start over again. Ugh! Same thing with the odd socks.
I’m still not so fond of laundry. Still, I there’s something kind of satisfying about all those piles of laundry all stacked up, clean and warm from the drier. I have so little ironing to do now thanks to permanent press, no sprinkling, no starching, unless it’s spray starch. Best of all, no odd socks. My socks come off my two feet in pairs and go back in the drawer two-by-two. Perhaps odd socks migrate. I think Mom still has a bag full.