July 1, 2019

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


Doing the laundry in the Mrvos household is never boring.  My husband Jim helps out by doing loads of his biking and tennis clothes, but he is not as lucky as me.  When I do the laundry, surprises show up.  The thing is, I never know what the surprise will be until after the clothes have been washed and dried.

Our laundry room is small, but it's conveniently located upstairs next to the guest room/office.  If I'm doing a load while I'm writing, all I have to do is listen for the washer to stop, hop up, pop everything into the dryer and then go back to work.  Doing the wash couldn't be easier.  Far different than my college days.  Back then, I stuffed quarters in my pocket and lugged a mountain of dirty clothes in a basket three blocks to a laundromat.

For the most part, Americans take doing the wash for granted.  But if you stop to think about it, laundry practices in countries all over the world are more labor-intensive than the way we do the wash.

In Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast in western Africa, laundrymen known as Fanico go from door to door to collect laundry to wash and haul it away in a wooden cart.  The laundrymen make their living by washing clothes by hand in streams using palm-oil soap.  

The Moroccan city of Chefchaouen is known for its striking blue-washed buildings.  Here, people travel to the Ras El Maa waterfall to wash their laundry.  The clean wet clothes are then strewn and left to dry in laundry huts. 

In India, washers called Dhobis specialize in cleaning clothes. From dawn to night, the Dhobis and their families wash up to 1 million pieces of clothes a day.  They hand wash the clothes with local water, beat them against a hard surface, and leave them out to dry on a clothesline.  
In many European cities, people hang the laundry outside because they don't have space for a dryer like this home in Dubrovnik (pictured above).  When my family and I visited the walled city, this particular clothesline struck me.  The vibrant clothing seemed to be carefully arranged and presented like a colorful painting.

Clotheslines remind me of my grandmother and mother.  Even though they had a dryer, they hung laundry outside to dry from spring to fall.  I remember my mother hanging laundry on a rotary clothesline with a large circular canopy.  My grandmother used a clothesline that spanned a good portion of the width of her backyard.  They must have liked the way fresh air permeated the sheets.  I can't even begin to imagine how time-consuming it must have been.  Give me a washer and dryer any day.

In the Mrvos household, the wash is done about twice a week.  It is fast and easy and it is usually worry-free...unless things get in the wash that shouldn't have been washed.  Like tissues.  Wool sweaters.  Dry-clean only clothes.  And Nellie Belly Boo.

Nellie was our daughter's big fluffy stuffed dog. I can't explain why she chose this moniker, but Abby has a penchant for giving animals unusual names, alive or stuffed.

I don't know what possessed me to wash her toy dog.  But after a sudsy bath in the washer with Tide, Nellie Belly Boo was no longer fluffy.  Her fur got this matted down look.  Abby was in tears—even though her beloved toy was clean.  From that day forward, I was forbidden from washing Nellie ever again.

As to the surprises that I alluded to earlier, here is a list of the things that found their way into the wash:
  • gum
  • pennies and dimes
  • concert stubs
  • clothes tags
  • receipts
  • dollar bills
  • a guitar pick
  • earbuds
  • a Lexmark name badge
  • a pen
  • a tube of sunscreen 
  • a plum pit 

This silver item pictured above is the strangest thing I've ever washed. It's all twisted and unusable now.  Can you guess what it is?

Clue #1:  it does not belong to me.
Clue #2:  

I don't mind doing the wash.  It usually doesn't take up too much time.  It can be a nice break from writing when writer's block sets in or when my brain gets overwhelmed with editing.  And, it can be fun when a surprise shows up.  Who knew laundry could be this much fun?

À la prochaine! 

I enjoyed your posts......the laundry one really got me laughing.  I too have experienced very strange things coming out of the washing machine......some were impossible to identify after spinning them.  I’ve washed rocks & other treasures when the boys were little.....especially after a week at Boy Scout camp. The big boy(Steve) was also very entertaining .......medical supplies would occasionally show up from his pockets or money .......change or bills.....or keys.  Nancy B.

I just wanted you to know I enjoyed the blog and related to it on several levels with similar early experiences and the convenience of having my laundry room and office on the same level – the basement. I do, however, hang our sheets on the line because of the fresh aroma – at least in warmer weather.  Jan C.

I think your mystery laundry find was the spring from your grandfather's watch, which somehow wound up in the pocket of your favorite overalls, which hadn't been washed since grandfather learned how to tell time.  Marshall C.