Actual photo from my 2005 Christmas card. I made some quip about "all through the house not a creature was stirring.... just not my house."
I haven’t sent holiday cards in three years. I use to love creating holiday cards. One time I drew a Christmas tree on each card, just the outline, and used my children’s toe prints to create the ornaments. This year, I’m finally in a financial position to send cards, and I have some things to communicate. There have been some big changes.
I haven’t decided how exactly to say all that I’d like to say so I’m paying attention to the letters I’ve been getting and, unfortunately, they annoy me.
I don’t like the impersonal trend toward ink jet address labels and Shutterfly messages, but more than that, they are all braggy brag. “Our son was accepted into the Global Leadership Program for bilingual children with a political interest, and after graduating from first grade this year, he will embark on the program in Spain.” Or the most irksome, “Our daughter has mastered the moguls and won her first competition. Dad doesn’t understand why this second home in Aspen which was suppose to give HIM the opportunity ski is instead making Olympic hopefuls out of his children (Darn that work!)” Seriously, this was in a letter I received today.
My letter would read something like this: “Dear friends, what a year! I’ve finally hit stride as a single mom. After a year of searching and hundreds of resumes sent, I’m back with my old employer, something I never envisioned myself doing. I realize now how important stability, a pay check and benefits really are. Big adventure and risk-taking are overrated. It’s all about the orthodontic coverage, and I know that now. My oldest son is gaining confidence although his daydreaming is reflected in his grades. My number two son is doing well with his support systems and warming up to reading now that he’s in the third grade. We’ve tackled many of his food sensitivities and his nose stopped running after three years! Who knows how number three son is, I haven’t had time to look at him. That’s right dear friends, I’m now solidly on the road to healthy mediocrity and couldn’t be happier!”
Maybe two years ago my clothes dryer died. At first I was broke and couldn’t afford to get it fixed. Now, I’m just obstinate. I could get it fixed, but I rebel against the plumbers that charge a $90 house call fee. They tell you what’s wrong and how much it will cost. They then apply the house call fee to the cost of repair. It guarantees that there is no problem which is going to be less than $90. What if it’s a loose wire or it can’t be fixed at all? Really? $90? I also discovered that my electric bill went down $20 when I quit drying in the house.
Do the math: I do two loads of drying a week. That’s eight a month. Eight loads for $20 in electricity and who knows in water and gas. So let’s say clothes drying costs me $25 a month at home. A fabulous local laundromat charges thirty cents for 10 minutes of drying in a double load dryer. So I can dry all my clothes in one load for 30 minutes. That’s $1 a week or $4 a month. So I save $21 dollars a month by going to the laundromat. Plus the freakin’ $90 for the house call.
And I have fallen in love with it. Every Sunday at 4pm I pack up the kids and we drive a few blocks to the Clean Scene. There’s a pizza place next door that sells $6 cheese pizza. We go, we start the load, we walk next door and order pizza. Ten minutes later either Steve or Mario will deliver it to us at the laundromat. The manager of the laundromat – Andrew – is a really nice young man. He is the middle of three boys so when my three little guys come in, I think he looks at me like an echo of his own mother. There is a big screen tv and he’ll usually change it to the Simpson’s or some other kid friendly kind of thing when we get there. I always offer him pizza and he always very politely declines.
There are lots of regulars and I’ll talk about them another time. I find it mesmerizing being a part of this community. It’s an intimate thing: washing your clothes. It reveals so much about you: what you think about material possessions, how you care for them, personal taste, the types of people in your family, what size bed you have, the level of clean freak that you are. The relationships are amazing. Who do you bring to the laundromat? Why? There’s a woman that brings her grandmother who is in a wheelchair. I imagine for the same reason I bring my three kids: she won’t leave her alone and doesn’t want to get a sitter. But maybe I’m totally wrong. Maybe Grandma just loves it the way I do. You can’t make any assumptions about the people in a laundromat.
It took a while for us to become regulars, but we are, and it’s some kind of weird wonderful. I wouldn’t give it up. For one hour on Sundays my kids and I are part of this tenuous, ethereal thing. It’s a microcommunity. We come together for such a short time then fall away. Then back again.
Kind of like a tide – or maybe I should say Tide.