2003.11.26 The color of laundry

Written by David Green.


A curious thing happens when I am burdened with too many things to do and I’m too overwhelmed to begin tackling even one of them: I putz. I piddle. I poke. I cruise on the periphery. Instead of just plunging in, I nibble on the edges.

I need to deep clean the kitchen in preparation for company coming. So, what do I do? I pick up a small pepper grinder, recently discovered during a mad rummage through the spice shelf. It’s been driving me nuts with its old layer of grime. I’ve wanted to scrub the thing for weeks now, but with everything else on the agenda and a perfectly fine, full shaker of pepper sitting in the cupboard, it seemed like a waste of time.

But today when I should have been scrubbing the floor or washing the walls, I find myself with a steel wool pad, madly giving the mill whatfor, grinding the grime right out of it. Senseless, mindless endeavor.

And then later today, when I should be cleaning off the dining room table, where do I find myself? At the computer, finally typing in a master grocery list so I won’t forget anything when I next go shopping. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages; one more week of putting it off wouldn’t matter. But, suddenly, it has taken on a sense of urgency—if only because the following elements exist at the same time: 1.) I am thinking about it. 2.) The computer is free of children. 3.) While shopping, I have remembered to write down things I should add to the list. 4.) I have the store receipt in my hand which lists everything I just bought.

We will ignore number five: I don’t want to clean off the dining room table.

Although it does come into play here because I know I need to find my notes about a recent conversation with my husband. He was giving me a hard time about my laundry sorting idiosyncrasies. He, and his son after him, will toss anything indiscriminately into the washing machine. Black socks, white shirts, maroon underwear, yellow shirts, green pants: they are colorblind.

He comes downstairs with a load of clothing in his hands while I am sorting items from the bathroom hamper and our daughters’ hampers.

“Any chance I can get my clothes washed today?”

“Sure, I’m about to do a nice lights load,” I tell him cheerfully. “Do you have any?”

He shows me what he’s collected. None of it qualifies for admission into my nice lights load.

“I think I’ll just do my own wash separately,” he decides. He’s afraid I won’t get to all of his stuff if he waits until I divide it into my many categories.

Besides the nice lights (light-colored items that need a gentle cycle), my laundry piles include crappy whites (anything my children wear relating to sports, especially socks and underwear), nice darks, crappy darks (includes David’s black socks and colored underwear as well as kids’ sports clothes), dungarees, sweat shirts and sweat pants, sweaters (in season), dark towels, light towels, sheets, dish towels, and Polartec or fleece clothing. Am I forgetting anything? Sometimes, if there are enough red items, I do a separate load of them.

David suggested the other day that I wash a few dirty dish towels with a load of clothes. I gave him a look of incredulity. Such a travesty of laundry protocol doesn’t deserve a response.

If I find my notes on the dining room table, I can tell you the outlandish claims he made a couple of weeks ago.

[Stay put and I’ll go look....]

It took me an hour, but I found the note.

I had been sorting laundry and David watched as I dropped clothes into my many different piles.

“You’re a lunatic,” he commented.

“Don’t you ever put the black socks with the white socks?”

“Ew! No! Never!”

“You’re a racist,” he concluded.

My kids have complained about my discriminatory practices before—usually when they want me to put their underwear and socks in with the nice clothes. But racist? That never occurred to me.

My father was an unabashed bigot, but my mother was usually very accepting of all people—until my sister started dating Bruce, a black guy.

“You can’t cross the color line!” she used to scream at Linda.

I must have been sorting the laundry during those big arguments. It’s a testament to my sister’s character that she never let my parents’ prejudice color her life’s choices. She married Bruce several years later.

But her laundry piles look pretty much like mine.

    – Nov. 26, 2003 
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016