By Merilee Mackay

          I am the laundress for my family. Sometimes, I hate doing the laundry. But hating doesn't get me out of it, so I mostly just get on with it. When I was eight, I had to stand on a stool to get all the wet laundry out of the washer. Now I’m eleven and can even reach the socks that always seem to get stuck at the bottom. 

I fell in once. My head almost hit the bottom, but luckily my arms were in front of me and I jack-knifed my legs like I was doing a dive from the high dive and didn’t get all the way stuck. It must have been funny to see. Just imagining what I must have looked like made me laugh so hard I almost slipped further down. And my laugh echoed inside the drum, making me laugh even harder. But when my arms got tired and my head started hurting, I had to stop laughing. I yelled for a while, but no one could hear me. So I kept wiggling until I got out by myself.

There’s a lot more to laundry than some people think. It isn’t just putting it in the washer and then the dryer. First, you sort: whites, lights, darks, special fabrics, and towels. Plus, Mom says you have to wash kitchen towels and rags on their own. She doesn’t like it when they get washed with clothes. I’m not sure it matters. They all get soap and they all go in the washer at one time or another. Then you have to check for stains and get to work on those before you put them in the wash. If you miss them, it’s harder to get them out if they go through the dryer. There are a ton of different kinds of stains too.  

Hayden has the most interesting stains. And I always check his clothes twice because he gets so many of them. Now that he is in high school, he spends so much time on how he looks you would think it is the most important thing about him. Grass and blood from practice are regular ones.  You’d think that there would be a way to practice without getting everything so messy.  But I guess not.  Somebody should work on that.  It would save everybody who does the laundry a lot of time.

Last week he had a drawing on his jeans. I could tell he hadn’t drawn it. His drawings always look like messy comics, and this one was neat and was a pattern spiraling out. It was a pretty cool pattern and had some little hearts hidden in it. I wondered about it. It didn’t seem like him to sit still and let someone draw on his jeans. Especially hearts. Plus, none of his dumb friends could draw like that either.

Mrs. Stringer told me that you could get ink out with hairspray. I saw her spraying a pair of pants with hairspray once when I’d been at Julia’s birthday party. We had been doing crafts, and one of the kids turned around with a black pen and put a big mark on her white jeans. I couldn’t believe something like hairspray could do that. Makes me wonder how safe it is for my hair. I told my mom about it once, but she just gave me a look and didn’t say anything.  

But it worked great on Hayden’s jeans. It was big, so I had to use a lot of hairspray. It took a lot of rinsing to make sure the hairspray didn’t leave a new mess on the jeans. He is going to be so glad it worked because I know those are his favorite jeans.  

Another thing people forget about is you also need to clean out the pockets. That’s a big deal. My dad is the worst with pockets. He always has candy, rocks, or money in his pockets. He loves blue Jolly Ranchers. When I miss one, it dissolves in the wash and gets blue dye all over everything. It’s the worst, and it means I have to rewash the whole load. Dad did tell me I could keep any change he leaves, but if it’s a bill over five dollars, I have to give it back. Last month I made $37.85.  

            Sometimes he has cool rocks in his pockets. But I don’t keep those. I don’t know where he finds them because he works downtown as an accountant. He fixes problems in people's accounts and then figures out how those problems got there.   

  When I find a rock or something, I put it on his shelf in his closet when I put away his socks.  He has so many now. Maybe for his birthday, I could get him a box or something for his collection. I have enough money to get something nice. I don’t know if Dad leaves his change in his pocket on accident or on purpose. But either way, I’m happy to give back the rocks and keep the money.

Sometimes he has a movie ticket and receipt in his pocket.  Usually, it's Thursdays at 11:30: one ticket, one hotdog, and a small drink. I wonder about that. I’ve wanted to ask him about it, but I haven’t yet. How much fun could it be to go to a movie by yourself?  Last week he saw a war movie. He should have gone to something funny. If I had been looking at numbers all week, I would want to laugh, not be scared someone was going to die. But at least he didn’t have any mustard stains. Maybe he could teach Hayden how to eat without getting mustard everywhere.  

My clothes are easy. I eat slower than Hayden, so I don’t get stains, and I remember to take things out of my pockets, especially money and Jolly Ranchers. Makes it easier. I wonder if I will always be the laundress in my family. I learned that word in a book I read while waiting for Mom’s clothes to be ready for the next step. It sounds fancier than the “clothes washer.” It isn’t a fancy job, but you wear clothes about 99% of the time, which means having clean stuff makes a difference 99% of the time. So I keep doing the laundry for my family, even if they don’t notice. 

       My mom’s laundry takes the most time. Most of her clothes are special fabrics, so I have to wash them with special soap or hand wash them (which is really just soaking for 30 minutes and then rinsing) and then hang them to dry. I have to keep coming back, but I also can’t leave for very long because she said the fabrics shouldn’t sit in the soap too long. I guess she doesn’t really grow anymore, so she wants her clothes to last longer because then she can have special clothes. It makes more work for me, but she says it’s worth it to take care of special things.


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