Tag Archives: clothes

What Happened to Me?

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“What happened to you?”

The question was voiced by my sister, Cheryl, just a few weeks ago. Two of my sisters, Brenda and Cheryl, were visiting here. We were at the family farmhouse, where my Aunt Katie lived until her death last August. I was not involved in whatever activity – meal preparation, or cleaning, or sorting – my two sisters were busy with at the kitchen table, so when the dryer stopped, I stepped into the shed to fold the laundry.

Cheryl followed a few minutes later. That’s when she said it:

“Cindy, what happened to you?”

Her tone was kind and curious, yet clearly she was disappointed in me.

The question was driven by the towels I had just folded. Though they were folded – because I’d asked – the way that Mom had taught us (in half twice the long way, then in thirds from the other direction for bath towels; in half twice the long way, then in half from the other direction for kitchen towels and hand towels; in half, then in half from the other direction to make squares of washcloths and dishcloths), my corners did not perfectly line up. As she neatened and refolded the ones I had done, she asked again, incredulous, “What happened to you?”

She added, “You are the one that taught me this,” as she helped me fold the rest of the load, with all of her corners and edges lining up perfectly. I blinked. I shrugged. I gave a little smile. I didn’t know what to say. I was kind of embarrassed. I felt a little bit ashamed. I knew what she was talking about, sure.

Growing up in our large household, I was in charge of laundry. And I took it very seriously. I arranged the piles of clothes around the perimeter of the round, heavy wood table in age order for each family member. Socks and underwear were stacked separately, in an inner circle, so that they wouldn’t topple the tall piles. All had to be put away, to make room for folding diapers and towels.

Though I never used cloth diapers with my own children, I can still remember the way to fold them. I have altered the way I fold towels (once in half long-wise, then in thirds from the other direction, then in half again for bath towels; in thirds from the short ends, then in half long-wise for kitchen towels, hand towels, washcloths and dishcloths) to better fit the space in my cupboards and drawers, but I still know the way Mom had us fold them. Muscle memory, from so much practice.

And I was precise. There was one right way, and things had to be done to those exact standards. I insisted that each of my younger siblings were just as careful as I was. Later, my own daughters struggled under my clothes-folding rules. They despised the job, as they seemed never able to meet my standards. They rebelled by folding their own clothes however they wanted, or not at all. To this day, I doubt they ever fold two towels exactly the same way, just to spite me!

So, what happened to me? When did I lose the precision in clothes-folding that made such an impression on Cheryl? I didn’t know how to answer, when asked, and I’ve been wondering about it ever since.

There were times that my reasoning got defensive.

“I’m too busy,” I tell myself, “no time to worry about precisely lined-up corners!” I am not as busy as Cheryl. She works two jobs as an administrator for two separate school systems. She is divorced, like me, so is solely responsible for the maintenance of her home and yard, as I am. I have to admit, she does a better job of it than I do. She also spends more quality time with her children and grandchildren every single month than I do with mine in a full year. In addition, she dates, goes to social events, and plays Words with Friends. “Too busy” does not work in comparison to Cheryl.

“Life is too short,” I say, “to worry about perfectly folded towels!” Yet all the things that have caused me to realize that life is short – the deaths of both parents and several siblings – happened to Cheryl, too. Plus, she had cancer. If I were the cancer survivor, you can bet that I’d be throwing that in her face! With a superior tone, I’d say, “Once you live through cancer, my dear, you realize that life is too short to worry about petty things like towel edges.” But, no. She’s got that one cornered, too.

So, without defensiveness, what has happened to me? When, exactly, did I quit caring, and why?  It has been on my mind quite a bit since the question was posed. I don’t like to think that my standards have gone out the window. Could it be something else?

I do not have, in my adult life, a “clothes-folding table” like I used when I was growing up. Actually, I have that exact table now, but it sits in the dining room, far from the laundry area, and is generally loaded with a vase of flowers, a couple candles, and whatever paperwork I am currently working on. I fold clothes using the surface of the top of the washing machine. A much smaller space. That could be a reason.

Yesterday, a beautiful, breezy warm day for putting laundry on the clothesline, I thought of another. Though I tighten my clotheslines regularly, the lines still sag with the weight of the wet laundry. It causes things to dry slightly misshapen. Because I dry my towels outside, they do not have corners that will line up. So there! Unless or until I learn that Cheryl also has a clothesline, and dries her towels outside, and still manages perfectly aligned corners…that is my answer to what happened to me!

 

What I Brought

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When moving to Beaver Island for an imagined life of self-sufficiency, when leaving all that is familiar for a new adventure, when moving to homes that are fully furnished right down to the silverware, what gets packed? For this move, and others since, I found that what comes with you are the things that best define the idea of “home.” This is what we brought:

  • Clothes. Though packing time was used to weed out things that had been outgrown or worn out, if it was serviceable, it was packed. I filled and labelled boxes of off-season clothing, and used the suitcases for the things we’d need right away.
  • Toys and games. My daughters were three and six years old. They had accumulated quite a stash of toys, handed down from cousins or received as gifts from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They had a playroom in the basement with toy box and shelves filled with toys, as well as beanbag chairs and an indoor slide. In their bedroom upstairs, they had dolls and stuffed animals. On the shelf in the broom closet, Terry and I had a collection of board games, cards and dice. We had to be selective. The girls both chose their most precious things, and helped make decisions about what would be stored until we had a place for it, and what would be given away. In the end, we brought a good selection of games, and quite a few dolls and soft toys.
  • Books. When I first moved to Beaver Island, my collection of books was pretty small. I had only one cookbook then!  We had a small stack of paperback books: Alive by Piers Paul Reid, Jaws by Peter Benchley, and The Exorcist by whatever sick-o it was that wanted to scare the holy hell out of me with that one. I had once joined the Book of the Month Club, lured in at Christmastime by their “choose four books for one dollar” offer, but dropped the membership as soon as I’d fulfilled the required purchases. Other than the books I’d purchased as gifts, I added hardcovers of  Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Roll, Jordan, Roll: the World the Slaves Made. Linda and I, on our trips around Flint in between classes, had discovered Young & Welshan’s bookstore, with sale and “remaindered” books right outside the door. There I picked up nice editions of E.B. White’s work and a few other selections. Luckily, I had little expendable income, as I could have easily over-indulged! I had one small bookcase that my brother, Ted, had built for me in high school wood shop class; it wasn’t quite full. My daughters had more books than I did, and they treasured them all. Decisions were hard. We boxed up every single book for the trip to Beaver Island.
  • My Journals. I’d started a new one when we started talking about moving to Beaver Island. I would use it, I thought, to chronicle our changing lives. Also, stationery, stamps and envelopes. I was a good letter-writer, and my Mom had told me she was counting on it.
  • Art and craft supplies. Finished, framed art, we loaned out or gave away. I boxed up paints and canvasses for the trip. Pencils, charcoals and sketch pads came, too. The camera. My big collection of bits and pieces of yarn, and crochet hooks.
  • Plants. I had about a dozen large and healthy houseplants. They all came to Beaver Island.
  • Tools. I didn’t personally bring tools, but my husband had a good selection that deserved some space.

Those were the choices we made, when moving three hundred miles away from our families, and all the familiar landscape we’d known.