this (washing) life
I SIT down for a rest as I often do after hanging out two loads of washing. At least four loads of it on the weekends. I try to give my husband a rest because he is a stay-at-home dad while I work all week.
Two of my sons are playing on the slippery dip, the four-year-old marking a cross on it in chalk. ‘‘There’s the treasure,’’ he tells his twoyear-old brother, both of them laughing as the younger one slides down and it disappears. My 17-year-old son is out.
I watch their washing spinning about in the wind. It’s all hung upside down in different sizes. The 17-year-old’s washing hangs nearly to the ground, his school pants so long. He towers over me now, more than 180cm tall.
The four-year-old’s are a lot shorter, the twoyear-old’s even more so. I remember the 17-year-old’s used to be as short as the twoyear-old’s. Where did that time go?
The pants are all in colours, but there’s lots of navy because of the 17-year-old’s school uniform. Some of the navy washing has white splodges on it from tissues left in the pocket.
My son will moan when he sees this and get out his special linen tool that takes all the bits of tissue off. He buys such tools himself now, used to the mess the tissues make.
I never did learn how to wash properly. My mother tried to teach me: ‘‘Never put the whites with the navies,’’ she said. ‘‘Check the pockets for tissues.’’ But now I have given up and just do the washing in cold water. That way you still end up with the tissues but everything doesn’t run.
The boys’ bodies fit into these clothes at different times of the day. There are different coloured pyjamas with children’s prints or all-inone suits that zip up the front to keep them warm when they throw the covers off in the cold night. Jocks for the two-year-old, who is toilettraining, are all upside down in a row.
Some trackpants have holes in the knees that I have sewn up so the next son can get some more wear out of them.
One day the little ones’ washing will be as long as their brother’s. I hope I don’t blink and miss this one as quickly.
My 19-year-old daughter comes outside. ‘‘I have to do some washing,’’ she sighs, plonking herself down on the chair next to me.
I stopped doing hers and making her lunch when she went to high school. Usually she washes when she needs it.
This week she is on her first placement from university, where she is training to be a nurse. They have put her in the dementia ward of a nursing home so she has to change her clothing more often.
‘‘If you get the basket I can put it on,’’ I tell her. ‘‘Well the basket has the clean clothes in and the dirty ones are all over the floor!’’ she says. We laugh together and I look at her, this clever daughter of mine. ‘‘Go and swap it,’’ I tell her, and she goes back inside.
I stand up and sigh. Time to take it in. ‘‘Can I help?’’ my four-year-old asks me.
I drag two of the iron chairs across the garden and the boys climb up. The two-year-old can’t reach so I pass a T-shirt to him and he throws it at the basket.
He misses and it falls on the grass. We laugh. Only a bit of dirt and we can always put it in the wash next weekend.
We carry it inside and they help me put it in the drawer. Who cares if it is folded properly as long as it smells nice and clean?