Jun 2, 2008

A Dry Season

By Sarah Albrecht, sitting in for Rene Allen

Given the heap of dirty clothes in the laundry room, either the kids have been mixing their stacks of clean clothes in with the dirty ones again, or science is wrong and there is such thing as spontaneous generation. Whichever is the case, laundry makes me empathize with camels. It’s something about those ponderous, shapeless burdens strapped to their backs.

Feeling like a camel requires coping strategies.

Humor helps, so several years ago I started keeping an alphabetical list of items I’ve found clunking around the t-shirts or banked against the dryer door like driftwood. I do check obviously jingling, crinkling, or bulging pockets, but, in spite of all the stuff that has come through the wash over the years, I don’t check the rest. Call it a streak of perversity, but that would be a lot of pockets. Besides, throwing all those boys’ blue jeans in the wash adds an element of risk to life. It’s not quite like bungee jumping, but it does make the heart race a titch—and my alphabetical list is almost complete.

“C”, of course, is for crayon, the red one left in my husband’s white shirt pocket after church. It ruined almost a whole batch of whites. I definitely should have checked that pocket, but who would have thought? Funny now, but it’s taken a few years for the memory to mellow. “N” is for the handful of nails my son found at a construction site. They made such a ruckus I thought the dryer was about to self-destruct. “T” is for tissue, disintegrated into fine, clingy pieces, and I have to admit guilt myself over this one.

Even the hard letters, the ones the kids agonize over finding in the alphabet game while we’re traveling—no sweat. J is for jolly rancher, although of course the washer dissolves the candy and only the wrapper makes it to the dryer. And Q? Quarter. Piece of cake. I have to make allowances for “X” and do something cheesy like “xtra.”

I made my best dryer discovery ever just a couple of months ago—letter “R.” It’s not that I always open the door with bated breath. Usually I’m in a rush and distracted, as was the case this time. I hurried into the utility room and flung open the dryer door only to find a mob of raisins waiting to stampede. Still abnormally plump from their journey through the washer, they tumbled out with bits of the snack-sized box they started out in. True, extracting the remaining raisins and box fragments from the rest of the clothes was a pain, but imagining the raisins’ journey as they rehydrated in the washer and then desiccated in the dryer seemed wildly funny to me.

One of these days the kids will be gone and I’ll add a final entry for “Z”—zero. Zero sounds sad and final. So until then? Yeah, I can deal with it.


  1. Thanks, Sarah. What a wonderful essay - I could probably add a few to your list - D for Driver's license, f for five dollar bill, I for integrated circuit (casualty of being married to an engineer) K for key to the car and R, of course, for remote. Oh, and G, for gross, gooey gum.

  2. Love it, Rene. And BTW,I left out I for i-pod. That wasn't funny.

  3. Very fun, Sarah! May I add M for magic marker, and S for silly putty? The raisin thing is very funny! Yeah...I for i-pod is not funny!
    My daughter would add L for library book - the one that was hidden in the sheets when she stripped the bed. Thanks for the great post!

  4. I remember even way before dryers were invented, Mother being cheered by finding change in Dad's pocket, because she could claim it as her own. I've even heard of husbands intentionally leaving a few coins as silent thanks for his wife's worthy contribution.

    Which reminds me of the (fictional?) woman telling her family of how her own mother hid money in varius places in the house, and whoever found it while cleaning got to keep it. "What a wonderful idea," her daughters chimed, almost together. "Why don't you do that?"

    To which the mother replied, "I always have."


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