Maybe I should have been a washerwoman rather than a writer. I swear, I am probably more suited to the former than the latter. Think about it, laundry, you take something that’s dirty, bung it into a machine, take it out, bung it into another machine, and then, in the end, without much effort at all it’s all clean. Sweet gratification abounds. While with writing, at least for this writer, even for the smallest of jobs — well not shopping lists — it takes an incredible amount of energy, self doubt and, occasionally, depression. First of all, ideas have to germinate for a while before they take hold. I know some people call this procrastination but I don’t like to put labels on my creativity. Then, once I have an idea, I have to stare at the computer screen for a substantial amount of time, play a few hundred games of Free Cell then refill water glass or tea pot and pet the cats when asked — again not procrastination. By the time I finally start putting words together, I am exhausted and still it takes so much more effort to feel that gratification that I get instantly — almost — with doing laundry.
Maybe that’s why I have never minded doing the laundry whereas I have resisted writing even when I had encouragement and success in the field. I think I just get mentally lazy and want to put the writing aside and do something that has a definite start and finish time that’s sooner than the end of next month. I’m not saying that doing laundry is my “true calling” or that it takes the same amount of creative juices to produce a result, but, gosh, every once in a while, I do prefer it to words.
What would my mother say about my glorification of doing laundry over writing? I think she would say, “Annie, you’re crazy.” She, I am sure, would have welcomed with joyful bliss the opportunity to put laundry aside and sit down and write a paragraph. I mean, really, I do laundry for one person, three little piles a week, maybe four sometimes. But I remember going down in the basement when I was little and watch her sort laundry. There were piles and piles, some as high as me, of undies, socks, shirts and dresses, sheets and towels. Think how many socks there must have been in her weekly wash for those 28 feet that lived in that house. I wonder how many disappeared to that mysterious land where single socks go to hide. For a while, she had one of those wringer washers that would take care of the agitation but she had to do everything else. She wouldn’t let us kids run the clothes through the wringers for fear that we would add a few fingers to the socks. We were always tempted. When she wasn’t around one time, I did, indeed, put my little hand through, not the washing machine wringer, not me, I stuck my finger in the big , hot, old ironer. She was right, of course, it hurt and I carried the scar my whole life.
Maybe mom didn’t mind doing laundry, either. In the sometimes chaotic world of raising a dozen kids, maybe she welcomed that time just sorting whites from darks. But, I still think, I don’t know for sure, that she preferred sitting down and writing one of her hundreds of letters that she sent to folks around the world. And I’m sure she didn’t use laundry or petting cats as a way to procrastinate doing that.
to do and she always wrote.