Three weeks before the school year came to an end, our clothes dryer broke.  Evidently, the first repair man did a “patch job” 8 months earlier which wasn’t meant to last.  I was so happy to have it working again the first-time around, I didn’t question how quickly the first guy made the repair.  He didn’t even have to order a part!  Needless to say, when I noticed it taking almost 3 hours to completely dry a load of clothes again, I was beyond irritated.  How dare the dryer break with only a few more weeks of school left!  I have much more important things to do with my precious time than haul loads of clothes back and forth to the laundry mat!  

As usual, I had already started bracing myself for summer days where I would be on call 24/7.  The few weeks before school let-out were often spent scurrying around town trying to finish my “to do” list while I could run errands by myself, hardly stopping to take a breath.  And then, the dryer broke.

The first week without a dryer, I “borrowed” about $5 dollars worth of quarters from my boy’s piggy bank, lugged my baskets of mile-high laundry out to the car, and arrived at the laundry mat only to realize that I forgot to bring detergent and my stash of quarters would only pay for 1 load of clothes to be washed and dried.  Luckily, the convenience store beside the laundry mat sold $4 bottles of detergent (in only the smallest size, just for scattered laundry mat users such as me) and even had a coin machine!  My lucky day!  Once I gathered all the necessary supplies, I tromped back to the laundry mat and lugged my baskets  inside.  The regulars sat relaxed in the hard plastic chairs that line the walls while I scanned the room trying to figure-out which machines were washers and which were dryers.  Once I settled on 3 washers all in row, I tried not to look too conspicuous as I studied the machines, unlocking the secrets of where and how much detergent to add and what buttons to push to make it start.  I imagine some of the regulars wondered if I’d ever washed a load of clothes before now.

After fumbling around for a few more minutes, I relaxed in satisfaction as my clothes swished around in the sudsy water.  I settled into a chair with my journal and started to write about my frustration over having to wash our clothes at the laundry mat.  A mother and her little girl were washing clothes, too.  With big eyes and a beautiful smile, the little girl delighted in dropping the quarters into the slot and pushing the buttons to make it start.  A while later, her daddy surprised her on his lunch break from work.  She told him all about helping her mommy with the laundry.  On the other side of the room, I spied a mother, father, and their two small children waiting for their laundry to finish, little ones scurrying around the baskets giggling amidst the whirr of the machines.  I wondered if they did laundry together as a family every week.

The second week that I showed-up at the laundry mat, I came better prepared – detergent, $15 worth of quarters, and a few dryer sheets.  Realizing that I forgot to bring some reading on the way over, I decided it was a good excuse to buy that Somerset art magazine that I’d been wanting to read at Barnes and Noble.  And, what the heck, a green tea latte would be nice and relaxing in between washing and folding.  After getting the laundry washing, I settled into the comfort of my car, right outside the window, and perused the creative pages of my magazine while sipping my latte.  When it came time to dry and fold my three loads of clothes, I noticed a lovely African-American lady reading her Bible while waiting for her own clothes.  And then there were 2 more ladies folding clothes side-by-side, one giving the other advice and encouragement over a difficult family situation.  I witnessed a sense of family.  Community coming together around the common household ritual of clothes washing.

Now, I am three weeks into waiting for the dryer part to arrive and I was over hauling baskets of clothes up and down the steps to our deck.  Hopeful that the part would arrive before the end of the week, I decided that I would wash everything at home and just hang it on two drying racks in the guest room.  This required a bit more planning than usual, making sure that I did a load of laundry every day so that it had time to dry in between.  In the past, I have been quite guilty of drying the same load of laundry over and over just because I forget to take it out and then it’s all wrinkled.  Now that I was hanging each article of clothing to dry, I not only gave thanks that we have so many clothes to wear, but I also become more aware of how much electricity I  probably waste drying the same loads more than necessary.  I vowed to do a better job keeping-up with the laundry once our dryer is fixed.  And each time, I took a stiff pair of underwear or a scratchy towel off the drying rack, I thought of my grandma and the many ancestors before her who washed and dried their family’s clothes by hand every day.  Once again, I gave thanks and found comfort in the rhythm of hanging and folding.

I would be lying if I told you that I was not ecstatic to have my dryer working again on the very last day of school.  But, I will say, those 3 weeks of going “dryerless” prepared my heart and mind for these summer days with my boy and girl in way that being able to check-off everything on my to-do list could not.  During that time, I first remembered to adopt the attitude of gratitude for all that we do have and the conveniences to which we are accustomed.  Because I had to slow-down (I couldn’t  just throw a load of laundry in at home and go about my day.), I recognized the value of being present in whatever I am doing, whether it be chores or playing with my children.  I even find myself being more open to involving my boy and girl in preparing for activities instead of  just trying to do it all myself beforehand.  And finally, I was reminded that when I am flexible and open to God’s promptings, when I set my priorities according to what is really important, everything else falls into place.  At least most of the time.