The word laundry – just the word itself creates a fight-or-flight result. A sock of panic, a fold of overwhelming – and just lots of mis-matched feelings. The word laundry flashes subliminal socks, ankle, calf, leg socks. No toe socks, girly socks – just stinky, gotta where them in the yard, sweat-stained socks.
When I calm my pulse and my breathing returns to normal, the laundry story unfolds.
My grandmother tripped my grandfather on the way to a fire – that’s the romantic story of how Mary Edna and Theodore Carlin met. Country girl with a city heart followed him to the big city and grew a family. At one point, he was the proprietor of a dry cleaning. When I knew him, he was a newspaper man delivering newspapers throughout Louisville when the sun came up – to newspaper boys who took them house to house.
I remember grandmother sending laundry out – and tablecloths returning swathed in flimsy plastic, pressed perfectly, like a wedding dress from a hanger.
When we moved in with my grandmother, once a week we sent the laundry out. Mom worked. It was an old house – no room for a washer and dryer. My brother and I wore uniforms to school, so we didn’t rack up a bunch of clothes.
I didn’t learn how to do laundry until I went to college – and then I married. Now, I have more laundry than I know what to do with.
Laundry taught me about one son’s love language. A hard worker, every now and then he’d ask me to wash a shirt – one shirt for school the next day. I learned to stop making learning laundry a life lesson for these one-shirt requests. It was his way of asking for a love language hug – and I learned to hug him that way.
Another son climbed up on a stool to do laundry – He wasn’t big enough to reach without. A load or a shirt at a time, he wanted his clothes clean. He was a quality time love language – not an acts of service. He didn’t want or need laundry hugs from me.
Socks pop up all over the floor of my house, like mushrooms in a manure patch. The boys to men just drop them – everywhere.
When I married and had children – I didn’t think of sock challenges. I thought of noble things like reading classical books of adventure and Aesop’s fable, finger art, museums, faith, fighting for right.
Not socks, the seemingly impossible task of herding all these unorganized pieces of white into pairs – for 7 pairs of feet.
I could try to pin the act of matching socks to things like a mother’s sacrifice, even holiness and grace – that in the daily with things like socks, shirts and the unmentionables. There’s no holiness or grace in the socks. Matching socks isn’t fun. Laundry isn’t fun.
I’ve become more sensitive to the word, “fun” – my youngest sons bemoaning, “It’s not fun.”
Fun – “FUN, n. Sport; vulgar merriment. A low word.(Sport: To divert; to make merry; Vulgar: Mean; rustic; rude; low; unrefined)
Fun has become the measure of life – or it often seems that way. Many words devolve – meaning become more negative – like the word cheap. It used to mean good quality at a low price. Now it means poor quality – whatever the price.
Fun, though, has become a desired commodity. Friday Fun, Bucket Lists of fun, vacation for fun – it seems the goal is to live for fun.
I don’t think anywhere in the bible is fun mentioned as the sole purpose for doing anything. Peace – yes. Contentment – yes. Doing our Best as a gift to God, even work – and much of made of joy.
“And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun” (Ecc 8:15)
The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary defines joy:
“The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune,the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration of spirits.
Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good”(Webster)
Fun is all about what you are doing. Fun is conditional, though. It does not extend to everything you do.
Joy is the condition of the spirit. It is unconditional. It extends to everything you do – little and big – big – like earning the first pay-check, saving a life, the birth of a child – or little like matching socks and folding laundry.
A few of my boys are grown up, taking care of business, realizing that finding joy in the daily, in the mundane like sock matching, grows something stronger inside than living for fun.
Living fun is like trying to catch fireflies in a field while living joy is like a steady fire that keeps you warm despite the cold and dark seasons.
No – there’s nothing holy about laundry and socks.
The holiness is what’s going on between us and God while we’re doing it.
“My soul shall be joyful in my God”(Is.61).