The house was especially still. Both girls were out with friends for the evening- savoring the last moments before they and their buddies scatter to colleges all over the country. Rain drummed on the metal roof. The kitchen was spotless, even though the evening was young. I’d heated up leftovers for myself, and already rinsed my fork and plate and tucked them in the dishwasher. A quick swish in the sink and wipe over the counter was all that was needed before I turned off the kitchen lights and headed toward the laundry room.
The buzz of the dryer had drawn me there, even though what I really wanted was to climb the stairs and run a hot bath. I’d come to the end, almost, of my first day back at school. Meetings, not teaching. My brain was feeling full. My bones were tired from all the sitting. My eyes were weary from staring at the computer screen catching up on emails late in the day.
A soak in the tub sounded perfect.
The thunder grew louder as I opened the dryer, whose intermittent buzzing seemed to say, “Pay attention to me. Now!”
As she’d dashed out the door an hour earlier, Frances had called over her shoulder, “Don’t worry about my laundry. I’ll fold my stuff when I get home.” I’d smiled, and thought about how much she had grown in her first year of college. Summer was ending, and I hadn’t done her laundry once.
I bent down and began pulling out the still warm jumble of clothes. “I’ll just lay her things flat on the top of the dryer, ” I thought, as I picked up each piece and smoothed it before setting it down on the still warm surface. It dawned on me that I didn’t recognize most of what I was pulling out of the heap. She buys her own clothes now. She washes and dries and folds them.
I shook out a t-shirt and added it to the pile, careful to do only enough to preserve the wrinkle free state of the garment, not so much that I’d be accused of interfering. My mind wandered back twenty years, to a time when I washed tiny onesies and bitty socks and soft swaddling blankets. And fifteen years ago, when there were smocked dresses to iron, and well loved overalls to scrub. A time when the girls were played with, and bathed, and fed, and read to, and loved on, and tucked in, all by 7:30 pm.
Tonight it was almost 8:30.I thought about their first soccer games, first sleepovers, first dates, first failing grade on a test, and first summer jobs. “How had it all gone so fast,” I wondered as I hung a still damp pair of jeans on the drying rack.
I folded the last tank top and pair of gym shorts. The house was quiet, and the rumbles of thunder were fading. I turned a stray sock right side out, and added it to the not too carefully folded clothes on the dryer. I closed the dryer door, flicked off the laundry room light and headed up the stairs, thinking ahead about the hot bath in my near future, thinking back about many years of folding my girls’ laundry.