It’s a fact that motherhood and household chores go hand in hand. For every loving, fun moment spent with our children, there are equal times spent cooking meals, cleaning, and the biggest chore of all - doing laundry. As I raised my children, I came to accept the constantly overflowing laundry bin and took it in stride. (I also found running up and down the stairs with the laundry basket to be a great mini-burst of cardio!)
In all my years of doing laundry, however, it never produced the overwhelming emotion that it did recently. It happened about a week after my son’s leave was over and he returned to the Army. I had thrown in a load of whites and was so quick in transferring the items from the washer to the dryer that it wasn’t until I was folding the warm bundle of clothes that I came upon several of his tee shirts he had worn while he was home. Instinctively, I held them close to my chest letting the warmth of the soft cotton soothe me. Then the tears began to fall. I started thinking of all the times I washed his little footy pajamas, and his little sweatshirts and tee shirts adorned with cars, trucks and construction equipment. Those blissful, innocent days of being the mother of a small child suddenly felt so very long ago, and my son so very far away.
Then something unexpected took over--I began feeling terribly guilty. There were times over the years when I was tired and feeling underappreciated, and I scoffed at all the laundry I had to do for my family. As I stood looking at the pile of clothes in front of me, I would have gladly taken back those little (fleeting) moments of frustration and traded them for this moment of separation and longing.
I know there is no turning back the clock. After a few minutes of standing over the pile of laundry and surrendering to my emotions as more tears sprung to my eyes, I had a thought. All those little chores I had done for my son in his growing years weren’t just tasks, they were another expression of how much I love him . . . from the endless laundry to helping him with homework and preparing his favorite meals. I couldn’t have a do-over, but I could take this moment to give thanks for the sweet boy with immaculately clean pajamas who I love with all my heart.
Ultimately, I folded the remaining laundry and put it away . . . everything that is, but one of my son’s tee shirts. I slipped that over my head, letting the warmth sink into my skin and feeling like my son was just less far away.