September 10, 2012 by Last Star blog
Whites vs. colors
Today was laundry day. I had been putting it off because the machines at the marina are $2 for a wash and for a dry. For some reason, this seemed to me to be highway robbery. We joke about marina dollars being very close to DC dollars, you know… a $5 burger in the rest of America is a $15 burger in DC and a stainless steel screw in Montana is $.50 but anywhere near a marina in MD is $1.25. I digress, so off to the Clean Scene in Deale, I go. Laundry bag stuffed and a trash bag of car/boat rag/towels in tow. Ughg, $2.25 a wash… but the dry is by the minute: .25 cents. Awesome, I’m in!
There are just the people you would expect in there on a Monday morning; young mothers with kids and loads of laundry, a guy with what looked like a load of camping type gear, a woman with loads and loads of towels and sheets, and an elderly man next to me. Now, I was really wishing my friend Lynn was with me, who has this fabulous knack for talking to everyone and anyone and making absolutely everyone feel not only at home with you but so very very special. She is an extrovert with a small e and I am in introvert with a capital I. So, I was just an observer. I spent the first half of my time in there on my mobile with my BFF catching up on life, then the second half watching this gentleman next to me do his laundry. He was elderly and had about 4 loads of laundry. A full household load of clothes, sheets, towels, and bath mats. What struck me was two things: most of his laundry was white and almost all of it was cotton. Let’s start with his tidy whities. I know, should I be looking at some old man’s tidy whities? But…I was. His were white and his wives were pink…but they were the same in every other way. That is what I noticed at first. As I watched him fold his 4 loads of various laundries, I noticed they were almost all cotton and predominantly white (cept for the pink ones.) I looked at my pile of bright crazy colors in a myriad of new textiles from reebok, nike, under armor…all made to dry fast and wick away all sorts of nasty smells and elements. Hot pink, bright blue, true black, UT orange, UCF gold…but no white in my modern pile of clothes. I couldn’t decide if this was of any importance or not, as we were both in there for the same amount of time doing the same thing, spending the same amount money and energy on laundry. I was distracted and in a hurry, folding and sorting in no particular manner or method. Dry? Good, fold and pack…next, dry? Good, fold and pack. But this man, this elderly slightly dishelved man with the mostly white and fersure all cotton load of old fashioned clothes was folding in a manner that stopped me in my tracks. He folded his personal items with a brisk efficiency of a military man, but what captured my attention was the way he folded his wives things, in particular a very worn white plain nightie. He held it up. He slowly shook it from its little straps and very very slowly with careful precision folded in half at the shoulders, then again ever so delicately with his large hands at the waist. He laid it so gently on top of the pile I wanted to cry. It was one of the most romantic and loving gestures I had seen in a very long time and she wasn’t even there to see it. I really looked at him at this point and wondered why was he doing a whole household of laundry? Where was his wife? I wondered and envied the relationship he must have with this woman, this plain white cotton woman: his wife. I looked again at the pile of colored modern fabrics in my basket and wondered about the wash and wear life we lead and about DC dollars. There is something very captivating about a white cotton t-shirt and an old fashioned relationship. Enduring, gentle and dependable, may we all find it.