Friday, May 1, 2009

Memories Lost?

The back-up drive isn’t working.  Three years of pictures.  Lost.

The memories are still there.  But not the pictures.  I fear because what if I forget?  What if something wonderful slips away?

It still happened, but if I can’t remember it.  Is it still real?   The kids were too young.  They won’t know unless we tell them.  The details.  The haircuts, the clothes, the weather.  They looked so different then.  But I forget.

I’m young.  My mind is healthy.  But I still want the pictures back, badly.  I don’t want to forget.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I'd been fighting a cold for about a week, and finally I'd lost my voice.  All I could do was whisper. But this particular morning my nine year old daughter, A., was trying to decide whether she wanted to save up to buy a camera or a violin.  So I whispered several questions across the room to help her think it through:

"How much money do you have right now?"
"How much do you owe mom?"
"How much do we owe you?"
And my last whisper:

"How much does the camera cost?"

I guess it was the devious sound of my hushed voice, but finally, A's little sister, SJ, looked up from her breakfast and said, "Dad!  Stop giving her all the answers!"

Photo courtesy of © Birgid Allig/Corbis

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You Don't Have to Live Like a Refugee

The Chinatown Bus - Revisited

I used to be a fan of the Chinatown bus.  I used to recommend it to everybody:  affordable, reliable, user-friendly.  However, my most recent trip was too flavorful to not share it.  So here goes…
I book a ticket on-line the night before.  I schedule a 10am departure from 15th & K Street NW in D.C.  That will get me into NYC at around 2pm.  Perfect since I need to be to work at 4pm.  Plenty of time to grab lunch.  The ticket says, “Arrive 20 minutes early to assure your priority spot.”  I do so.  My wife drives me into the city and I’m there in plenty of time.  It’s cold outside so I sit the in mini-van until it’s about time.  Bad move.  A line has formed, but it doesn’t look too terrible.  I get in line at about 9:55am.  The bus eventually comes fifteen minutes later.  People start to calmly board the bus.  I see one elderly gentleman even tip to porter putting luggage under the bus.  However, as more and more passengers board, the “attendant” (who is not Chinese at all and who pulled up in a 1970’s gold Oldsmobile with a “Washington Deluxe” sign in his rear mirror to oversee the boarding process) has started to count heads.  I had specifically splurged on the $21 bus company to make sure I had a good trip, since my last trip was so unpleasant.  (Almost all one-way tickets are $20.)  The attendant has come to a conclusion.  “There’s one more seat.”  That seat goes to the guy in front me.  The poor college kid behind me was just dropped off by his dad.  He and I are left out in the cold.  My luck is just beginning.
The attendant asks for our reservation receipts.  We both produce our printed receipts.  As he pulls out a wad of cash from a manila envelope I start to wonder what exactly “reservation” means in Chinese.  He gives me $20 cash and offers to put me in a cab over the 6th & I where I can catch the “next” bus.  I told him I paid $21.  He gives me another $10 for the cab.  I guess that makes us even.  Good thing my wife is still there waiting.  I take the cash, jump back in the mini-van and my wife drives me to 6th & I where I had caught other Chinatown buses previously.  We wait.  I’m happy to have some extra time with my wife.  The kids are fine at grandma’s.  The attendant did not offer up when the next bus would be, but I remembered seeing an 11am bus on the schedule the night before.  However, at 10:55am nobody else has gathered.  The other college kid had made his way over via cab and had been waiting on the curb, but he had disappeared somewhere as well.  I go into the office with the sign above it “Chinatown Bus Office:  6th & Eye”.  I am informed that the next bus is at 12:30pm.  I know that around the block there is yet another pick-up point for another Chinatown bus company, so my wife drives through the alley way to H street.  There’s a crowd gathered at 718 H Street, so I ask one of the guys waiting when the next bus is due.  He says there’s an 11:00am bus, but he’s been told it’s full.  He wanders off down 4th Street with his luggage.  Oh, well.  I go into the office and find a very frustrated man behind a very small desk and a board covered with small pieces of paper with departure times written on them.  I find the Monday column and, sure enough, one of the pieces of paper has 11am on it.  After huffing off after one customer asked one question too many, the man returns.  This man actually is Chinese.  I ask when the next available seat might be found.  He says he doesn’t know, but there’s another bus company two blocks down.  By this time I feel my luck is improving, so I decide to check it out.
My wife (very patiently) drives me down to 513 H street.  Another crowd is gathered on the street.  I ask one of the women with baggage what time she’s expecting her bus.  “11:30am.”   I ask where the office is and am pointed to a door hidden behind a stairwell and nothing that I can see that would designate it as an office for any company.  I descend a small, lurid stairwell into sub-basement room.  Against the far wall there’s a Plexiglas booth with two cashiers inside.  Taped to the Plexiglas there’s a sign that says “cash only”.  Opposite the booth is a TV showing some kind of music video where a few twenty-something men are executing pop dance moves while coyly holding fans in front of their faces as Chinese subtitles move across the bottom of the screen.  Did I mention they were singing in Chinese?  I make a note to look up the word “subtitles”.
Just my luck!  There’s an 11:30am bus and the women behind the Plexiglas is willing to take my $20 cash in exchange for a ticket.  I call my wife waiting outside to tell her the good news.  However, as I get outside I start to wonder if holding a ticket actually means I’ll get on the bus.  After all, I’d just been in the same situation a few hours earlier and was still in D.C.  I start to do the head count thing and realize that there are probably twice as many people waiting than a normal bus will hold.  Suddenly the crowd starts to move—without explanation—around the corner to 5th Street. Perhaps I missed some announcement.  Fortunately my suitcase has wheels and I’m close to the corner, so I get a good spot in the new line.  Too bad for the suckers who got there early and were waiting at the far end of the block.  This adventure is slowly turning from a game of chance to an exercise in survival.  Only the ruthless and strong will travel.
A bus pulls up, the mass of people crush against it.  I’m caught in the crush and can’t get free.  The door opens and a man starts yelling indiscernibly to get back.  People begin disembarking and gathering their luggage. This bus is for Philly only.  “Where’s the bus for New York?” someone cries above the din.  “Across the street,” the driver yells back.  Of course.  Why didn’t I realize that?  A mob of people rush across the cross walk.  Once I get there I realize why I hadn’t seen this covert bus departure point before.  It’s secretly disguised as a public bus stop, with a sign and everything.  However, no public transportation seems to be using this particular stop.  Regardless, a sizable gathering of people stand in a loose but intense clump around the sign.  My odds have improved.  Half the mob got on the bus to Philly.  I join the remaining members of the mob.  
I call my wife to tell her my new location.  She has now determined to wait until the bitter end before leaving.  She’s got my back.  A bus finally pulls up.  Did I mention it’s now noon?  The bus has stopped short of the sign post.  I’m now magically at the front of the line again.  The people gathered around the sign are not happy. The crush resumes.  The old, young, bond and free start to press in on the bus, I start recall visions of helicopters leaving roof tops in Saigon.  I wonder if I’ll get on this chopper out.  
The door opens.  More shouts.  Move back!  People disembark.  Others are loading their luggage underneath.  I don’t dare break away from my prime spot in front of the door.  Finally new passengers are permitted to board.  I try to protect the old and the young who seem at risk of getting trampled.  I hold my pink ticket in a vice grip to make sure I don’t drop it.  Finally I plot down in a seat with all my bags.  Once all the passengers are aboard, I risk going back out to stow my suitcase.  (The overhead bins are big enough for a fingernail kit and a small windbreaker.)  I return to find my carry-on where I left it and the seat next to me empty.  Figures. The seat cushion has a nine inch hole cut into it.  Lucky me!  Looks like I’ll have some extra leg room.  
They collect the tickets and finally we’re underway.  I call my wife, thank her for waiting and settle back for the ride.  That’s when I realize I have to pee.  Okay.  If I must, I must.  I make my way to the back of the bus.  The closer I get the more I realize perhaps my luck is running out.  Behind the door covered with interior bus carpet, I find permanent marker and spray paint graffiti scattered about the walls.  The appearance of somebody trying to throw out their leftovers is strewn about the toilet seat and I find a notable lack of any real toilet paper or hand sanitizer.  I’m really glad I’m a man at this moment.  I take care of my business and get back to my seat.
I settle into a Robert Ludlum novel and zone out for the rest of the trip.
We reach the Holland Tunnel, then Chinatown.  I’m only going to be one hour late for work.  I left my home seven hours earlier.
Perhaps I’ve lost my sense of adventure.  Perhaps I’ve become a snob, but I also can’t help but think that even for $20 one-way, there’s a better way to travel up and down I-95.  As the bus pulls up to the Allen St. and Delancey, I feel a sense of relief, the kind of relief refugees must feel as they arrive at a holding camp far away from the battle front or natural disaster.  I’ve survived.  Or rather, I’ve arrived.  I feel grateful.  People push and shove for the exit.  I hold back a bit to avoid the stampede.  As I descend from the bus, I can’t help but notice that there is a sea of faces, young and old, bond and free, crushing against the bus, just as eager to get on as I am to get off. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Presents in the Bathroom

I knew exactly where my parents were keeping the Christmas presents.  We lived on the fourth floor in an apartment with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  We had a nice view of the neighborhood playground out our front window.  As for the bathrooms, you could only get to one of them through my parents’ bedroom.  That’s where they kept the presents. 

I didn’t know that at first.  I just had to go to the bathroom.  I had been in the living room reading a book.  My mom was in the kitchen baking something, my dad was at work, and my sister was playing with some of her dolls in our bathroom.  Maybe she needed the sink for a “pool” or something.  Either way, I had to go, so I went to use my parents bathroom. 

When I walked in I was pretty surprised to see toys, clothes and books stacked all around, on top of the toilet, under the sink, all over the fluffy rugs that covered the floor.  Then there was the bathtub.  My mind spun with thoughts of what could be in there.  I pulled back the shower curtain.  That’s when I saw the staircase.  It had never been there before, but it was definitely there now.  It kind of twisted a bit so I couldn’t see all the way down, but I could see light coming up from somewhere below, so I figured I’d better check it out.  I thought about going to get my sister, but she was pretty cranky when I told her I needed to use the bathroom.  Besides, I could always show her later.

I took a step onto the staircase.  It was made out of wood with brass pins holding it together.  It creaked a bit, but it felt solid.  I took another step and then another and before I knew it I was looking up at the distant light above me coming from the bathroom that was now out of sight.  I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the smell.  You never know what you’re going to get when you climb down below your bathroom floor, but everything had a lovely mint aroma and the air was fresh and crisp, but not cold.  At least it didn’t feel cold. 

Everything seemed to bend down there.  After I reached the bottom of the curvy staircase, I had reached a hallway of some sorts.  It too bent a bit, so I couldn’t see what was “around the bend” as they say, but I could see fairly well (there were small torches mounted to the wall with lovely little mint flames burning evenly) and I could even hear the sounds of something echoing gently towards me from off in the distance.  I walked tentatively at first, but as I got used to this new environment, my confidence grew.  Pretty soon I was walking steadily down the hall.  The torches lit the corridor, the air was warm and the peppermint smells (turns out the torches were rough hewed candy canes) were starting to mix mint with the smell of chocolate, and a hint of baked cookie.  The whole thing was making me hungry for a sweet snack.

As I rounded the curve the sounds became clearer.  I could hear singing and clanking.  The voices were strange, not like my mom or my dad’s or even my sister’s for that matter, but they sounded friendly.  The light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter and brighter and quite suddenly I found myself standing at the edge of the opening into a large, bright room full of action, excitement and elves.  Now I’d seen elves on television and at the mall but never in real life.  They looked normal enough as far as elves go—like very small grown ups—but I was surprised how normal they looked just as far as people go.  They were talking and working.  Some were joking and horsing around.  Some were frustrated and stressed.  But they were all focused intently on what they were doing, even if they were playing around.  In some cases, it looked like the ones that were playing around were working even faster than the serious ones, because their heart was in it.  Suddenly I realized that I was just standing there in the wide open.  None of the them had seen me (or at least no one had taken notice of me) but I quickly crouched down by the edge of the opening, close to the floor.  I still wanted to watch them, but didn’t want to be seen.  I didn’t feel in danger, but somehow I felt that if they saw me they might get angry or perhaps they would run away and hide.  I certainly didn’t want that happen.

So I crouched down to get comfortable in my new “hiding spot”.  That’s when I saw the baskets.  The elves were starting to gather everything together and cleaning up their work stations.  As they moved about and cleared their work, I saw several baskets with names on them.  Many of them were kids I knew from school, but not all.  I blinked hard when I saw the one with my name on it.  Or rather, the name of our family.  Then before I could notice what was in it, an elf stepped in the way of my view, threw a small cover over it and picked it up.  A few other elves were picking up baskets and carrying their completed projects.  Some of them were not, but what I did notice now was that they were walking directly toward me.  I froze looking straight at them, but none of them seemed to look back at me.  They were too busy talking one with another. 

I scrambled to my feet and started back down the hall, the way I had came.  They were behind me and moving faster.  Their chatter and singing hadn’t become any more intense, but they were clearly moving fast.  I guess I had underestimated their little legs.  I started to run.  The torches were now flying past my head as I ran.  I stopped every few moments to see to see if they had stopped, but every time I did they had gained ground and seemed to be just around the bend.  The mint air was stinging my lungs slightly because I was breathing fast and hard, but I turned again and ran.  This time I didn’t stop and listen.  I reached the bottom of the staircase and started climbing.  Even while I was running I could hear them.  They were on the stairs too, and they were clearly fast climbers.  I started to take the stairs two at a time.  I could now see the bathroom light up above.  It was getting closer, but so were the elves.  I ran and ran, tripped once and banged my shin, but quickly got back up and then tripped again only to find that, in trying to stop my fall, I’d reached out and grabbed the shower curtain.  I pulled myself up into the bathroom.  The unwrapped presents were still scattered everywhere.  I tip-toed through them trying very hard to not touch them or knock anything over.  I made it to the door and finally had my hand on the handle.  Then I did stop.  I could hear them.  They were coming.  I had to decide what I was going to do.  They were right there.  I could smell the mint air pushing up as the whole group of them reached the top of the staircase.  Then I made my decision.  I turned the knob, stepped out into my parents bedroom and closed the door behind me.  Then, silence.  Absolute silence.  I leaned against the door, trying to hear, but there was nothing.  I stepped back onto the edge of my parents bed, sat down and rubbed my shin.  It hurt.  Then I heard something from inside the bathroom, like a box falling over and low voices—whispering but intense—like someone chastising someone else for being clumsy, and then nothing.  Silence.  I tip-toed out of the room.  I went across the hall and got my sister.

“Come here.  I want to show you something,” I told her.

“I’m busy.  Leave me alone,” she said.

“I know where the Christmas presents are.”

“You what?”

“I know where the Christmas presents are.  Come here.  I’ll show you.”

Mom was still baking in the kitchen.

My sister was skeptical, but she put down her dolls and followed me.  She had a scowl on her face as if to say, “If this is some stupid joke I’m going to punch you.”  (I know my big sister loved me somewhere deep down inside.  She just didn’t always know how to show it.) 

“You have to be very quiet,” I explained.  “I don’t think they want us to see them.”

“The presents?” she asked.

“No.  The elves.” 

Her scowl turned to rolling eyes.

“I’ll open it just a bit and you can peak in.  But be quiet.”

I could tell she was getting tired of this, so I quickly but quietly cracked open the door.  I nodded my head as if to say ‘look inside’.  She did, and then held absolutely still.  She didn’t say anything, then she looked me straight in the eyes and punched me in the arm.

“Hey!” I yelled.  “That hurt.”

“Stop bothering me,” she said and then walked out of the room.

I opened the door gently and peaked in, then I opened it all the way.  I walked in to see the whole room.  There were towels, soap, shampoo, a few magazines in a holder next to the toilet and the fuzzy rugs that covered the floor, but no presents.  I pulled back the curtain on the shower.  There was a nice porcelain tub with a big metal drain.  I sat down on the toilet lid.  I pulled my leg up under my chin and rubbed my shin.  A bruise was starting to appear.  I was still hungry for a cookie. 

I walked down the hall into the kitchen.  I didn’t even bother saying anything to my sister.  I got one of the mint chocolate cookies my mom always made around this time of year, told my mom I was going to playground and headed outside.  I walked down the stairs.  Four flights.  I had never thought of it before, but they kind of spiraled downward as you went from floor to floor.  I got outside.  It was cold and crisp, but the sun was out and I felt warm.  I started to walk across the field from our building to the playground.  It was a wide open field of grass so it struck me as strange that I was walking in a round about way to get to it.  I wasn’t trying, but I found myself walking in a long curving arc toward the playground.  It was cold so there weren’t any other kids outside playing, so I had the place to myself, but I could hear small voices singing somewhere in the distance.  Maybe somebody had their window open and the tv was on.  I puttered around the playground not really wanting to play, but not wanting to get punched in the arm again by my sister.  I went down the bending slide.  I went up and down on the see-saw as best I could by myself and then I just sat on the swings, rocking back and forth gently. 

As I swung back and forth, I couldn’t help but notice that everything smelled slightly like peppermint.  I sat there for a moment and just thought. The singing had a stopped.  Then I looked down at the ground.   I'd always wondered where playgrounds came from.

I went to the sand box and started digging.

©2009 by O Productions, LLC.  New York, NY 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Christmas Rabbit

It was parked in the lot behind the apartment building.  All I had to do was write a check for $500 to Chad’s grandparents and it was mine.  I was sixteen, so it was the biggest check I’d ever written.  It pretty much wiped out my savings, but I did it.  My dad had warned me buying it was only the first expense of many.  There would be insurance, gas, maintenance, ... yeah, whatever.  I was sixteen and I wanted a car, my own car, not the big brown dodge van my parents drove.  So now I was the proud owner of a small poop brown 1974 Volkswagen Rabbit with only one head light, windshield wipers that didn’t work and a radio with punch buttons to skip to the “pre-programmed” radio stations of my choice. 

It had other features, although they were all unfortunately just as unimpressive.  The stuffing in the two front seats had disintegrated or decomposed, I couldn’t tell.  All I knew was that inside the fabric covering, there was a metal frame in the shape of a car seat and that the fabric covering this frame was basically a sack for all the stuffing particles that had fallen to the bottom.  (Whenever I would tip it forward to let someone in the backseat, a few particles would work through the cracks onto the floor.  To this day I don’t know what that material was.)  But anyway, it wasn’t  anything a couple of tropically themed seat covers couldn’t fix.  Blue and white lantana leaves juxtaposed with the maroon interior and brown paint job looked pretty smoking.

So I pulled the car out of its spot, made my way to the main road and came to a stop.  Now I knew a little bit about driving stick shift, but I would put the emphasis on “little”.  I’d just successfully maneuvered my way through the parking lot in first gear. Now came a six lane road, three lanes in each direction.  LA & the DC area are on record as having some of the countries worst traffic.  I was living in the DC area at time, at rush hour in particular, on Christmas Eve to be specific.  Yes, I had just bought a car for myself on Christmas Eve; a true display of the Christmas spirit if I ever saw it.  (Give me a break, I was sixteen.)  But as I slowly eased off the clutch and tried to pull into traffic, fear quickly replaced the Christmas spirit.

Somehow I managed to pull into the very right lane with the grace of a bucking bronco and sweat was beginning to bead on my forehead.  All I can say is “buyers remorse.”  It was dusk, so I had my headlight on.  Gratefully it was not raining, but I still had a distance to cover.  My mission:  drive to the DMV, register my car, and make it home alive.  The big obstacle:  The Mall.  Yes, in my compulsive, sixteen year-old wisdom, I had decided to go out and purchase my first car on Christmas Eve, drive it past the shopping mall at rush hour, wait in line at the DMV where I would get to pay my first post-purchase car expenses (thanks, Dad), and then make it home in time for dinner.  Brilliant. 

All was going well at first.  All green lights.  Then the “wave” turned red.  I stopped at the intersection.  To my right was the mall.  In my rear view mirror I saw a sea of headlights.  In front of me were twelve lanes of traffic converging.  “You can do this,” I told myself.  The light turned green.  I let out the clutch.  Then everything went into a combination of super fast slow motion:  Bucking bronco.  Stall.  Sweat.  Restart the engine.  Sea of headlights.  Six lanes.  Honking.  More honking.  Merry Christmas to you too!  Rev the engine.  Let out the clutch.  Bucking bronco.  Buck, buck, buck!  Stall.  Sweat.  Light turns red.  Crap!  Sweat. 

As I sat in the middle of the intersection, traffic from my right slowly made its way around me.  I think that’s when the buyer’s remorse really started to take hold.

One more cycle of traffic lights, a few curse words, and some other holiday wishes later, I pulled into the DMV parking lot.  Here my true, mature colors revealed themselves. 

“Dad,” I said into the pay phone (because they still had payphones back then.)

“What, son?”

“I don’t know if I want this car anymore.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because it sucks!”

Christmas Eve indeed.  He talked me off the ledge, I registered the car and I made it home for dinner.  Mission accomplished.

The next morning we were opening presents.  (I’m sure I got gifts for my family, I just don’t recall what they were.)   My parents got me a new stereo for the car.  No wonder my dad talked me into it!  I spent the day installing it.  U2 never sounded so sweet!  Now I had wheels, tunes, seat covers and a head light.  Windshield wipers would have to wait, but they were coming.  I was so excited.  Now I just had to show it to my friends.  But it was Christmas day.  You don’t go visiting your friends on Christmas, at least not when you’re a teenager.  I guess it’s unchristian.  The day is reserved for boring relatives.  But I was a quick thinker.   My good friend Lauren lived around the block…and she was Jewish!  Perfect.  I was down the driveway as fast as my clutch would let me. 

Parked in the cul-de-sac I let Lauren lay her eyes on the sweetness that was my vintage, music pumping Rabbit.  She got in and I took her for a drive.  My buyer’s remorse was gone.  This was it!  This was the life!  Freedom!  Then Lauren asked me, “Do these seats have any padding in them?”  I’d have to get around to that I guess.  My dad was right…as usual.  Merry Christmas indeed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Missing Mom

My wife had gone grocery shopping for bit.  I tried to explain that to our three year old son, but he wasn't having any of it.  After a few tantrums and a few attempts on my part to calm him down, we walked together to the front door.  I opened the door and he just laid down across the threshold, his face on the doormat, his feet inside our apartment.  I rolled my eyes.  "Don't you want to come back inside?" I asked.  No response.  Perhaps he found the outside air refreshing.

I slowly started to close the door on him, hoping this would prompt him to his feet and back inside.  No such luck.  He just whimpered and whined a bit and staid right where he was.  I rolled my eyes again and relented.  Finally he stood up on his feet and stepped out into the stairwell.  I eased the big heavy door closed behind him, thinking the idea of being locked outside our apartment would scare him back in.  Again, no such luck.  The door was closed.  He was on the outside.  I was on the inside.

About three seconds past.  I couldn't resist.  I slid the metal peep hole cover aside and spied on him standing outside the door. Small, pudgy, innocent…and absolutely still.

There are three apartment doors on our landing and, although he was standing sideways so I could see his profile, he wasn't looking at any of the other doors or the stairs.  He just stood there, a little wrinkle on his forehead, looking upward slightly at nothing in particular.  Then he asked quietly, "Mommy, where are you?"  There was something so pure and honest about it. This time I didn't roll my eyes.  As a grown up I knew where she was more or less.  I knew the route to Costco and back.  I had her cell phone and knew I could call her if I wanted to.  But all he knew was to look up at the sky, say his mother's name and ask where she was.  Being apart from Mom can be hard.

I felt a little guilty for spying on his quiet moment of desperation, but the moment didn't last long.  He started to walk down the hall--out of the narrow view of the peek hole--so I opened the door to follow him.  We spent the next couple of minutes walking up and down the hall, pushing elevator buttons and enjoying the coolness of the tile.  However, Mommy didn't magically appear.  I tried again to explain where she was, we puttered around some more and--after a few minutes--he was ready to go back inside, so we did.

A while later my wife did come home and we were all happy to see her, especially our little guy.  We all miss mom when she's gone.  It's nice to be back together.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Loads of Pink

It was the Tuesday after President's Day.  School was out because the New York City school board thought a week of vacation in the middle of February would do everybody a lot of good.  So my wife had taken two of our younger daughters and our son to a get together with some other out-of-school kids.  Our oldest daughter was taking advantage of the opportunity to read in peace and quiet and our youngest daughter was asleep in her crib. So I did what all father's naturally do in that situation:  I decided to do the laundry.  

Now I know that might seem like a rather magnanimous and gentlemanly thing for me to do--and it was--but in addition to my magnanimousness and gentlemanliness, I was also tired of seeing our slightly stinky pile of laundry sit in our entryway.  Living in an apartment building, we have the distinct privilege of carting our laundry to the basement to the communal washers and dryers found there.  So after a few calls to my wife to locate the detergent and the quarters, I was on my way.  The only warning she gave me was to not fill anyone of the machines too full or the clothes would not get clean.  I could handle that.  Once we hung up I'm sure she was casually mentioning to the other mom's that I was home taking care of the laundry.  I'm sure I had scored some points.

Now, my mama raised me right, so I knew you divided the lights from the darks and washed them separately.  I knew that if you didn't, you ran the risk of turning all the whites pink.  Trust me, as a kid, I'd seen what my sisters red sweater could do to my tighty whiteys, and it wasn't pretty.  Well, actually it kind of was, and that was the problem.

So I was now in the basement and my neighbor had just transferred her load to one of the industrial sized dryers, so all three washing machines were available.  Perfect.  I started to unpack the laundry and quickly realized that my wife (or kids, perhaps?  they must take after their father in helpfulness!) had already sorted the laundry into lights and darks.  Being pretty quick at mental math I knew that a load of darks and a load of whites would leave one washer empty.  Plus I wanted to be sure I didn't fill them up too much.  I had been warned.  The darks were on top so I started to divvy them up:  anything really dark went into it's own washer, things that were sort of dark went into the other.  The whites went into their own machine.  

As I proceeded to the bottom of the cart something began to dawn on me:  we have four daughters.  This was not news to me.  I had been there at each of their births (and I knew all about Miley Cyrus, Polly Pockets and Hello Kitty.)  But I had never seen it in such a symbolic and stereotypically gender specific way.  It wasn't that there was clothing my daughters or wife would have been embarrassed for me to see, nor were there piles of dresses, skirts and blouses.  It was just jeans, t-shirts, pajamas, underwear, socks, onesies, etc, but as the washers filled up, I realized that they were filling up into three evenly divided loads:  lights, darks and pinks.  

I put in the detergent and quarters, set the whites to hot, the darks to cold and the pinks to…well honestly I don't remember, but the point was, they were in a class by themselves.  And that's how I feel about my girls.  I'm sure my mama would agree.  And since they were on vacation, they'd have plenty of time to fold everything.  That's how magnanimous I am.

She's not my mama, but for a real laundry expert visit: