All three of my boys are fast asleep.
My 2-year-old is snug in bed, his noise machine playing soothing ocean sounds. My 5-year-old is asleep in his own room, tucked into the crook of his father’s arm, who is also asleep, the light still on, a book draped over his stomach, rising up and down with the rhythm of his snoring.
The house is quiet.
Time to put another load of laundry away.
I pick up the basket and dump its contents onto my bed. I assess the situation. A mountain range of men’s dress shirts and slacks, women’s tanks and yoga pants, little boys’ shorts and tees, sprinkled with an assortment of socks, undies and sports bras awaits me. Twenty minutes, minimum. I take a sip from a glass of white wine placed on my nightstand before settling in to this relentless task.
As I search for the matching bottoms to a pair of 5T Transformers pj’s, I find myself counting the hours of my life spent sorting, washing, folding, hanging and putting away laundry.
I was fortunate enough to have a mother who did my laundry until I headed off to college, making me 18 when my adventures in laundering began.
I take my current age and subtract 18 from it, giving me my total laundry years. Then, I consider the average number of loads I do a week. Five. I decide to take a brief reprieve from matching socks and take out my phone, multiplying that number by 52. I do one final calculation, multiplying the number of loads per year by the number of laundry years.
4,425 lifetime loads.
I set the phone down and take another sip from my wine glass.
At roughly 30 minutes to load and fold, it equates to 132,750 minutes, or 2,213 hours of my relatively young life.
So many loads to go.
I place a youth XS T-ball jersey on a hanger, lightly stained.
I think back to my college years, savoring the times I could carry two full laundry bags back home to mom.
As I fold a pair of size 8 capris, my thoughts flash back 10 years to folding size 16 jeans when I was married and unhappy.
A small smile crosses my face as I recall hanging size 10 skirts when I was divorced, living alone and loving life.
I gather my colored but comfortable underwear in a pile, opting to bypass folding them and simply tossing them in a drawer.
I used to hand wash flirty lingerie when I was once again engaged.
I gather my husband’s work pants and begin placing them on hangers.
I remember hanging suits from the cleaners when I remarried, no kids yet and enjoying my career. Within a few months, I was suddenly folding maternity tops and bottoms, my wardrobe and waist exponentially expanding, those freshly pressed suits to be packed away and forgotten for a few years.
Nine months later, my laundry basket was overflowing with burp cloths, crib sheets and onesies while my own wardrobe was suddenly quite small, consisting of a pair of yoga pants worn God knows how many times in a row, a homely but comfortable nursing bra and worn-in T-shirts.
I remember making the decision one morning that sorting by color was a waste of my time and instead just crammed the whole lot into the machine.
I recall the frustration of finding a diaper in the wash after it’s been run, and the manual labor required to clean the mess of gel-like liquid off every piece of clothing, cursing my decision to fill the washer to capacity.
I smirk at all the times I’ve refused to wash my husband’s clothes because they were found sitting in a pile next to a perfectly empty laundry basket.
As I begin making a folded pile of 3T shorts, a stray newborn sock falls out of one of them. I hold it out in front of me, marveling how it got there. It reminds me of my laundry loads from two years ago, when my wardrobe once again consisted of maternity pants, baggy tops and supportive bras.
I sigh as I come across a pair of 5T pants, newly ripped at the knee, and set them down beside a pile of Hulk and Spiderman underwear.
I wonder about the day when my boys will be embarrassed to have me fold their boxers, or my own embarrassment at what I may find in their jeans pockets.
I consider what my laundry basket will never have.
Pink, frilly dresses. Sparkly tops. Disney Princess socks.
I ache a little at the thought of what my laundry basket will be missing after the boys are raised and gone.
I hold my toddler son’s little striped sock a little closer to my heart, close my eyes and take a breath before scouring for its match.
Twenty minutes later, the mountain range atop my bed is gone. I sit on the edge and finish my glass of wine.
Another load awaits tomorrow.