Laundromat Life

by Jane M. Bailey      

The first time I met a laundromat was at the Jersey shore where our family went for vacation. At some point, Mom would put the family’s laundry in the backseat of our Volkswagen beetle and tell my sisters and me to sit on top of the pile. There were no seatbelt requirements then. I don’t know what Dad was doing, but it wasn’t laundry. Off we girls went to spend precious vacation time washing clothes.

Mom parked us kids in front of tumbling colors. “Watch the kaleidoscope,” she’d order and go off with the clothes pile to perform machine magic. Hours later, we’d head back to the beach house to put our bathing suits back on and get a new batch of sand on the clean towels.

My college dorm had its own laundromat. I learned that Sunday afternoons were the worst time to do laundry as students vied to cram clothes into machines and homework into our heads. Friday and Saturday nights were good for finding empty machines if you were one of the dateless-types. I fit that category so spent many weekend evenings washing clothes.

When I finally got a boyfriend (who is now my husband), we started doing laundry together. It seemed very romantic, for about one weekend. Somehow ‘our’ laundry became mine to wash. After all, it’s cheaper that way, right?

One joy of marriage and home ownership was having a washer and dryer at home. I left clothes languishing with no one breathing down my neck or emptying the dryer before clothes were dry. Of course, the languishing bit meant many mildewy-smelly loads.

On a recent trip to visit family in Virginia, my daughter’s washing machine broke. Mema (aka Me!) volunteered to take all laundry to the laundromat. “Mom, don’t shrink Parker’s school uniform and can you take Rhys with you? He can do his homework there.

“Sure,” I replied as I thought,..and help Mema!

We drove to a local laundromat and I handed half the laundry bags to eleven-year-old Rhys. Together we walked into what I came to call the Casino. Every time someone needed quarters for the $5.00 washing machines, you’d hear the coins spilling onto the floor ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. Jackpot! Only the jackpot had to get put into a washing machine. Some casino!

Rhys thought he was done once the bags were in front of the machines. No luck. I told him to sort whites into machine one, colors into machine two, and miscellany things like his brother’s school uniforms into machine three. This did not go well.

            “Where does this go?” said Rhys about a Navy blue and white striped Rugby shirt.

            “Put it in colors so the blue doesn’t run on white clothes.”

            “But won’t the blue get on the white stripes?”

            “Mmm, you’re right. Take it out and put it in with the whites.”

            “But won’t the blue run onto the white stripes?”

            “Well then put it with your brother’s uniforms!”

This went on for a while, when I finally sat him by the dryers to do his homework. One problem. There was no wi-fi and all his homework was online. Sigh.

I put him to work figuring out how to use the credit card payment choice instead of 150 quarters. Somehow he pressed the payment button four times and I paid $20 for a $5 load of laundry.

When it was time to dry the clothes, we had to figure how long it would take for a load. At a quarter for 5 minutes, I thought it best to err on the quick side. No, ten minutes did not suffice. Fifty minutes and ten quarters later we had dry clothes, with hopes that the school uniforms hadn’t shrunk.

 As I folded clothes, I found myself analyzing other folk’s laundry. Like at the grocery store when I watch a healthy person unloading his/her cart on the conveyor belt and see kale and cauliflower and almond milk and nuts. While I follow with my chips and dips, cookies and cakes, pasta and pasta.

The laundromat is similar. There’s the man across from me doing Marie Kondo folds of his white-white tee shirts, while I slap-fold our yellowed tee-shirts and not-sure-they-haven’t-shrunk school uniforms. Comparison is a terrible thing.

Lately I’ve been thinking about opening my own laundromat. I’ll serve free Chai lattes and develop an artificial intelligence app to fold the laundry. Customers could Venmo money right to the machines to get them chugging. For the children, mini stadium-seating in front of kaleidoscope dryers, with a special controller for the kiddos to play with the dryer speed to make the colors go fast or slow. Like a video game without the video. I think I’m on to something.

The Great Coverup

by Jane M. Bailey

First published in The Litchfield Connection, December 2022     

            When I was fourteen, I was allowed to wear pink lipstick. At fifteen, my makeup allowance finally included foundation. I was overjoyed. Now I could slather gooey muck over each of my many freckles. I had suffered years of “freckle face” taunts. Foundation was to be my salvation.

Each morning I dressed my body in clothes and my face in a mask of foundation fluid, with a touch of bubble-gum pink on my lips. Not sure that was any better than a face full of freckles.

Over time, I refined my makeup skills and made sure my boyfriend never saw me without my face mask. By the time we got engaged, I knew he’d be in for a shock when I unveiled my full freckled face. I was very good at cleansing off my makeup each night, but therein lies the problem. When you get to the time when there’s more to do in bed than sleep, there is a big quandary. Do I take off my makeup before or after that other s-word we do in bed?

I think that’s when you know your relationship is on solid ground. When you wipe off the mask and say “Ta-da! Take me or leave me!” and he doesn’t leave.

Do you remember the Lone Ranger? If you don’t, you are too young to be reading this. Back in the day of Cowboy & Indian television shows, this masked law and order stranger on horseback concealed his identity with a simple eye mask. The Lone Ranger’s identity managed to be secret through five seasons of adventures. Who knew an eye mask could be so effective?

The Lone Ranger’s sidekick Tonto often called him “Kemosabe.” There’s a theory floating on the internet that Tonto was calling the Lone Ranger “Idiot” in Apache language. Mmm…sounds to me like Tonto used a mask of language to hide his true feelings about his boss.

Of course, Halloween is the perfect mask-wearing holiday. Wearing one is almost a requirement. Over the years we’ve moved from simple Lone Ranger type of masks to mega-masks that don’t need a costume. A Werewolf mask is so scary, no one can look beyond the hair and full-face mask. Just don’t go to a Halloween party thinking you can flirt or enjoy refreshments. Some masks are designed to just make you sweat.

COVID has turned us all into mask-wearing wonders. First we all looked like medical personnel. Then the fashionistas got hold of things and made masks to match outfits in any color or pattern. This was most appreciated for expanded gift opportunities.

Our family had run out of ideas for my science-teaching husband. We had flooded him with science tee shirts until he ran out of drawer space. We moved on to science socks, science ties, and even science underwear. Don’t ask. Being able to find science themed COVID masks enabled us to stretch his wardrobe.

I recently cleaned my make-up drawer and discovered an eye-gel mask along with a jar of mud masque. Neither had been used for the 100 years they had been in my drawer. I didn’t even know what a mud masque was.

I went to my trusty Google school where I learned mud is not alone in the face masque department. There are also clay, charcoal, and honey masques for repairing, soothing, detoxing, and toning my face. It seems counterintuitive to me that a mud masque absorbs oil and debris. Since when is mud a clarifier? Beats me.

As for eye gels, they can be bought on Amazon for $6.55 or $289.00. Okay, that last figure is for fifty masks for both freezer and microwave so you can either freeze your eyeballs or burn them. Not sure how useful that is. The marketing messaging makes me think I’ve been missing out these last hundred years. Back in the drawer my items went, for the next hundred years.

Each year, I have the joy of attending a girls’ weekend. My friends and I go to a cabin in the woods to hike, eat, and drink a lot of wine. We sit around in pajamas and wear no makeup. No mask. No pretense. What a relief. Just us girls. Until a camera comes out and we run to put on some lipstick. Just a touch, for the picture. Not that we have anything to hide…     

It’s a Wrap!

by Jane M. Bailey      

First published in The Litchfield Connection, September 2022

This week, like every week, I folded laundry. Nothing special about that. I found myself folding all three of my white pants, ankle, capri, and one that doesn’t match any fashion length. I heard my mother’s gremlin voice, “Time to put these away.”

I do put away folded laundry so wondered why my gremlin was annoying me. Then it hit me. It was Labor Day. As in “You can’t wear white after Labor Day! Put these away where you can’t see them until Memorial Day.”

Oh, that’s what the gremlin meant. Time to wrap up Summer 2022.

Just who determined such a rule that you can’t wear white…pants, shoes, purses after Labor Day? What about on Indian Summer days? Or winter white outfits? I suppose it’s the same person who determined when we can wear patent leather shoes.

I folded my pants and put them in a storage box close enough to reach if I decide to violate convention.

To celebrate completion of laundry, I poured myself a glass of iced tea. Uh-oh, I heard Mom again. The iced tea must go. I opened the fridge to see what else would help me celebrate. There was a bottle of lemonade. Hmm. Am I allowed to drink that after Labor Day? What about ON Labor Day? I poured myself the largest glass I could find so I could clean out my summer-fridge and switch to fall-fridge. No more lemonade and watermelon. Now it’s cider and apples.

If you’re starting to think I’m crazy, think again. McDonald’s McCafe has reprised their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and as of September 14 is adding a new twist to their fall menu. Their 1980’s Danish Bites are being revamped to go with their seasonal lattes. Doesn’t sound like fall to me, but McCafe assures me Danish Bites are a special autumn treat.

Just a week ago, summer stretched like a rubber band. I languished on the deck, book on lap and watched hummingbirds gulping nectar, getting ready for their migration. The few red leaves popping among the green were teasers rather than threats to a relaxed summer pace.

And overnight it’s here. Autumn. I know, I know. The astronomical fall equinox isn’t until September 22. If we go by the northern hemisphere’s meteorological seasons, fall began on September 1. We all know, however, that summer really ends on Labor Day. That’s it.

Chrysanthemums line the entrance to the grocery store. A bin of mini pumpkins reminds me to buy squash soup, autumn napkins, and pumpkin spice candles.

It’s almost time to put the garden to bed. Everything looks overgrown and in need of a good barber. Yet begonias hold their own, providing color too beautiful to wrest from the ground.  

School buses crisscross town, and the calendar fills. Hurry! Hurry! Put the fans away. Freeze the garden herbs. Pick up last winter’s sweaters from cleaners. Uh-oh. I wonder how long they keep things; I think I dropped the sweaters off in April. This could be a problem.

In the hustle-bustle of the new season, I stop and remember the pop of an acorn drop. The crunch of leaves releasing the smell of fall football. Aunt Marion hunched over her sewing machine, making me a new first-day-of-school dress. A black composition book, waiting for the first name-class-subject-date heading of my new grade. The smell of chalk dust on black boards and wax on gleaming school floors.

The Labor Day whistle blows and we’re off into a new season. Goodbye hummingbirds, goodbye geese. We’ll be waiting for your return in 2023. For now, it’s onward into the corn maze.

Ok, everyone, Summer 2022 is a wrap!