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Finding my inner music – in a laundromat

August 20, 2013


I knew that somewhere on our western trip this summer we (I) would need to do laundry. We packed light enough to have only one suitcase (carry on size) per person so that we wouldn’t have to check any luggage (or pay the fees), so in traveling eight days, I packed for four basic days and planned to scrub up about half way through.

I also knew that I would somehow enjoy it. Traveling with two men—my husband and his brother, a bachelor—I didn’t have a lot of alone time. As something of an introvert, I was beginning to crave some space by myself. One of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer Murch, (Mama’s Minutia) talked about doing laundry for their family of six on a recent joyous but emotional visit to a village where they lived 13 years ago in Guatemala. She wrote “I welcome the solitude, a brief reprieve in the storm of emotions.”

When I was 12, our family traveled and camped for six weeks out west and once a week, whether at a campground laundry or commercial business in a town, doing laundry was something of an adventure for us kids. We loved using the change machine, putting the right number of coins in the washers, buying the little boxes of soap, pushing the laundry carts around, and even drying and folding things into neat stacks—with a chance to start over in having our clothing nicely organized (not easy in a tiny camper and six people).


When laundry is your biggest chore of the week, it is a respite from the “work” of sightseeing, traveling, finding your next meal, finding the next highway or motel.

In this case we were in Bakersfield, California, and when I asked at the desk of the Doubletree Inn (a shout out to a Mennonite pastor, Brenda Isaacs, now at Bakersfield Church of the Brethren congregation who recommended it when I asked her on Facebook), the desk clerk quickly paged through a supply of printed directions from Google and handed me a sheet with turn-by-turn directions to the nearest laundry. (And oh yes, a second shout out for the fresh warm cookies given at Doubletree check in!)


At the laundry I was intrigued that some machines near the back had a large sign “Oilfields” over them and I surmised that was where you were supposed to do your laundry if you worked in the nearby oil fields.


While the machines did their work, I penned some postcards home, wrote in my journal, and watched with some intrigue a quartet of women who appeared to also be on either vacation or attending a conference, who were doing their laundry together and seemed to be enjoying it, too.


I had to think of one of my favorite writers, Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her reflections in Gift from the Sea:

“We are all, in the last analysis, alone. And this basic state of solitude is not something we have any choice about. It is, as the poet Rilke says, “not something that one can take or leave. We are solitary. …

“How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it. It seems to imply rejection or unpopularity. …We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends and movies should fail, there is still the radio or the television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap-opera heroes at our side. Even day-dreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.” [From Gift from the Sea]

Laundry is a time to enjoy being alone with our thoughts and the “quotidian” of daily life.

Can we celebrate that we have clothing, machines (or a nearby laundry), or a well or river–and the health to do the chore?

Jennifer writes a once-a-week photo essay she calls the “Quotidian” and includes this definition of quotidian: “daily, usual or customary; everyday; ordinary; commonplace.” And if you need a reminder of how easy most of us in North America have it regarding laundry, see Jennifer’s post from earlier this year after arriving in Guatemala for a 9 month term of service with MCC.

What chore is really not a chore for you? Where do you listen to your inner music?


If you wonder where my husband and brother went, I was only too happy to let them escape to the nearest Costco and Home Depot without me!!



From → Faith, Family Life

  1. I enjoyed your post here. I don’t mind folding the laundry, but I am usually wrangling a 4 year old and a 2 year old from underneath the piles of clothing so it makes it a bit of a hassle. Mowing and gardening are my chores that are not chores.

    • Thanks for your comment–and yes, it is different when you’re folding etc. while also take care of your children. I like your votes for mowing and gardening–very therapuetic.

  2. suburbancorrespondent permalink

    Laundry as respite – amen to that!

    Sent here by JenniferJo…

    • It is a specific, confined task with neat beginnings and ends … except for the leftover socks. I like defined jobs, which I seldom get. Thanks for your comment!

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