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May 8, 2019

The Laundry

The laundry has become a point of contention in my household…
3 min read

The laundry has become a point of contention in my household, mainly because I used to handle it 100% before I had my son, and now I do not. I’m lucky if I can get a load into the washer during the week, and there are no guarantees that said load will make it into the dryer, much less get folded and put away. The slack has been picked up by my husband, who moves the wash through all its requisite cycles, and my mom, who folds it while we watch the evening news and I am stuck to the couch in an exhausted, end-of-day stupor.

It’s my husband with whom I have words. I express my concern when a basket awaiting my  mom’s attention feels like its contents are not all the way dry. When he fills the laundry room (which is also our mud room connecting to the garage) with 5 loads of dirty clothes at once, rather than bringing them in piecemeal, he hears about it. And heaven forbid a “delicate” item be funneled through “normal” channels.

I remember feeling calmed by doing the laundry once upon a time. The crisp scent of freshly dried towels. The neat piles of white undershirts I produced, every sock finding its mate. The laundry was a place I could impose order, a task I could complete from beginning to end. Now it stresses me out because my involvement proves so fickle, disjointed, inadequate. Where I once triumphed now I falter. How the mighty have fallen.

Our last tiff happened before the Superbowl. We were having guests over for the event, and the floor of the laundry room had disappeared beneath piles of dirty clothes. When my husband and I discussed cleaning up before our little party I got bristly. I think I said: “You don’t TOUCH the laundry today. I will do it all.” In that testy moment, he might as well have remarked that my tummy used to be flat before the baby, which would have been tantamount to stepping on a landmine. Holding dynamite.

Of course the individual (now 6 years old) responsible for the marsupial pouch beneath my ribcage inevitably required my attention and energy in copious amounts that day. My caustic pledge to assume all responsibility for the laundry, beginning to end, fell by the wayside as I ran after my son. My dereliction of duty didn’t even register with me till the Superbowl party was over, and I realized that the wash taking over the first floor of our house had miraculously disappeared before our guests arrived. Later I discovered that my husband hadn’t merely hidden the dirty laundry away, but had actually washed several loads in the hours preceding the party and stored them upstairs. Three baskets of clean clothes that I should have generated awaited my mom’s next visit as if he had conjured them out of thin air.

As I stared at Exhibit A, B and C, feeling the sting of self-reproach, another, more surprising realization hit me. My husband had completely ignored me. Disregarded my shrill words as if they’d been shrieked by a toddler vowing to do the year’s taxes. Quietly, he had carried a burden for me that he knew I could not carry. Without complaint, or even acknowledgment of what he was doing as I dealt with a child whose needs can so often prove overwhelming.

In short, my husband had extended grace to me, covered for me, when he could have used the situation to score a winning point. Put me in my place as someone who couldn’t cover the tab she’d run up at the bar.

It made me wonder whether we are recipients of a divine form of grace that comes in similar packaging. How often in the course of a day God provides what we need without making a big deal about it. How many times He scoops a second helping onto our plates while we are busy banging our fist on the table, claiming we can feed ourselves, thank you very much.

Ordinarily I do not like the idea of being ignored. Least of all by those whose good opinion of me matters the most. But today I am giving thanks for the ones who love me enough to disregard my words and actions when that’s what needs to happen. Not only for things to run smoothly, but for me to comprehend, in my dark and defensive heart, how deep grace runs. How I will never exhaust its bounty, despite how poorly I may perceive its presence or merit its blessings in my life.

To my husband: thanks, honey, for ignoring me when my attitude got ugly and stupid. I can’t promise it’ll be the last time, much as I’d like to. But know that I’ll never look at a load of laundry in quite the same way again. Those endless baskets of wash will speak of abundant love and commitment.

Now, about the trash and recycling…