Focus, part 2: I was terrible at folding laundry because laundry is boring.
This is a guest post, written by my long-suffering mother, Amy Miller, who blogs eloquently at www.vomitingchicken.com.
When I had oodles of young kiddos at home, I set up a chore system that split up the daily chores in a logical (to me) manner, and was easy to implement and keep track of. I thought, as a busy mom of 5, that it was a pretty smart system, if not brilliant.
To wit: Each major chore was given to one child for a month, and then rotated at the start of the next month. In the unlikely event that one child got attached to one chore set in particular, he or she could opt to negotiate with somebody else to keep the chores as they were for another month or two. That didn't happen very often, however. Usually by the end of the month, each child would be thoroughly fed up with his particular chore set, and would turn to another one willingly. Well. Resignedly might be a better word.
I had four big (ish) kids at home in 1999, so I set up a 4-chore system. Each kid would be appointed one of the following (I gave them titles, to make doing chores more fun) (ideally):
Laundry Drudge: in charge of folding and putting away all laundry
Chef's Helper: kitchen helper, called to help prepare and serve all meals
Pick-up-and-Vacuum Maid: responsible for daily picking up and vacuuming, as needed
Dishes Diva: anytime help with washing or drying dishes was needed
Our laundry set-up in particular was tedious, at best: our washer and dryer were in the basement, in an area that we dubbed "the Dungeon" for its rough, unfinished, cramped, dim and spider-harboring qualities.
We would haul all dirty clothes down two flights of steps to the basement, where we'd sort and wash and dry them, and then around the corner from the washer and dryer was a big old chest freezer, which is where I would place baskets of clean laundry, fresh from the dryer, ready to be folded.
Each day the appointed Laundry Drudge would do the job of folding the clean laundry, and then carry the folded stacks up the basement steps, through the house, and then up another winding flight of steps to the bedrooms upstairs, for delivery.
It was a lot for one person – especially a smallish person –
but it was not an impossible job. And I helped whenever I could, natch'. Andrew happened to be the Laundry Drudge that odd month that articles of clothing started to disappear inexplicably. My favorite socks. Baby Amalia's cutest little Sunday dress. Everybody seemed low on underwear. It was strange.
And then, the day came when I could not find even a single pair of clean underwear for myself. Despair loomed. And I was down to only one diaper cover for Amalia. Something was happening.
Was our ancient washer eating the smaller articles of laundry?
It was a puzzlement. I descended to the Dungeon and examined the washing machine, and searched all around it. I looked in the laundry folding area, on top of the chest freezer, but the baskets that sat there were empty. The laundry was caught up. I finally went to Andrew, since he was, after all, the Laundry Drudge that month, and I grilled him about the missing articles.
His big blue eyes and open, innocent face only registered surprise at my line of questioning.
Then, as he focused in on my questions, some realization dawned: and then he dashed away, down to the basement, and came back to me with a scant handful of laundry – a few pairs of underwear, a couple of random socks, a diaper cover, a tiny t-shirt – they were not clean, I noticed. It appeared that they had been clean at one time or another, but now they were littered with dryer lint and dust. I was relieved to see a couple pairs of my underwear in the little pile.
and then with a quick grin flashed up at me, he took off, back outside, the screen door slamming behind him.
I felt a bit of relief at having a clean – of sorts – pair of underwear for that day, but honestly so many things were still missing. Eventually I chalked it up to our old washer – it was a 30-year-old Maytag and probably it was "eating" small things, as I had heard the older models will do. It probably had a month's worth of underwear tucked away in its bowels. Ironically. Twisted thing. I decided that that must be it, and I hoped that it wasn't becoming a fire hazard.
I finally accepted defeat and hied us off to the outlet mall close to our place, and bought a few pairs of new socks and underwear for those who were lacking them, including myself.
It wasn't until a couple years later, when we were doing a thorough deep-cleaning before selling the house, when I discovered what had actually happened to those clothing items. They had been carefully wadded up into little individual balls by somebody, and ingeniously tucked into little nooks and crannies all over the basement: behind the chest freezer there were quite a few things hidden.
Around the corner in the "fruit room," where my canned goods were stored on narrow shelves, socks and underwear and tiny things were carefully wadded and hidden in tiny, out-of-the-way spots. They were practically invisible, which explained why I hadn't seen them, though I had walked past them hundreds of times, probably.
It took only a few minutes of reflection to remember when so many things went missing, and to connect the disappearances, of course, to when Andrew was in charge of laundry. I was amazed, frankly, that with his constant push to do his chores as quickly as humanly possible, that he would have taken the time to so carefully hide so much of the laundry!
I was dumbfounded by this question: wouldn't it just have been faster to fold and put away all those things, rather than go to all the trouble to secrete them in all those out-of-the-way places?
I questioned Andrew, but he barely remembered the events (or at least that was his assertion). Two years is a long time back, for a twelve-year-old.
The only thing I could come up with at the time (and this theory I still hold to today) was that the tediousness of the job just got to my ever-wiggly, ever-creative, always-in-a-hurry little boy. He just couldn't do that job day after day, without going a little bit crazy.
Why he didn't fetch all those things when I asked him about it, though, is a question you'll perhaps have to ask him yourself.
If you can catch up to him. He's a busy young man these days. And I would expect that his patient wife Sonia is in charge of the laundry.
Anyway, I would guess he just was in a hurry to get out and play that day.
Check out Vomiting Chicken, but only if you like funny, true-life stories with a lot of heart.