“I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.”
– Buddy the Elf from the movie Elf, describing his journey from the North Pole to New York
At age 40-plus-ish with almost two decades of motherhood under my belt, I wish I could say I have mastered the domestic arts on some level, at any level. Yet management of the household has always challenged me.
I’m not a great cook. I often tell people I don’t really cook – I prepare food that other people have cooked and frozen. Chicken tenders or the vegetarian version of the same are staples of my repertoire. I’m a semi-homemade kind of girl with a few exceptions, like when I try a recipe or grill out in the summertime. I’m a slightly better baker, yet I rarely make the time to do it right. The Precious Pair bakes far more than I ever do, and I enjoy the cookies of their labor.
When it comes to home organization, I will forever seek it. (I can barely park my car in my garage due to its disarray.) General cleaning is not my strongest suit either. My house is cleanish, but not in the spic and span way that my friends seem to achieve. My dishes plague me. Even grocery shopping – in this pandemic year, I’ve resigned. It’s best to let someone else do it and deliver right to my front porch. I’m not bothered all too much by the infamous “replacements” if something I want is sold out.
But my underachieving when it comes to these six tasks – cooking, baking, organizing, cleaning, dishwashing, and grocery shopping – pales in comparison to my pure failure associated with the seventh level of household chores, The Laundry.
Or I should say The Godforsaken Laundry. Yep, that’s what I call it often. And I know I shouldn’t use that kind of blasphemy. In fact, as the Teen Member of the Precious Pair noted with annoyance the other day when I was having a tough time overall, “Why must you use the word ‘godforsaken’ in front of everything?!?” She’s right. I tend to do that when I’m in a bad mood, for dramatic effect.
During the month of December, all the above gets a little harder. And, well, it’s because I’d rather decorate the house than clean it. I’d rather shop for fun gifty things versus boring groceries. I’d rather wrap those gifts than wash those dishes. And, let’s face it, I’d rather binge Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies and sip hot cocoa in front of our glowing and glorious tree than do ANY of the above-named chores.
Suddenly one evening, no human in the household had clean underwear. (It sure doesn’t help that the two canines also living here confiscate and destroy any pair they get their paws on.) This became the now infamous night in December when I went head-to-head with The Laundry in a fierce battle. As I huffed and puffed and sorted, I lost count at 9 piles. I had a pit in my stomach that told me there was no coming back from this level of neglect.
The Little Red Devil crept up on my left shoulder and whispered into my ear, “You have failed miserably, and you really should be ashamed of yourself.” I felt a moment of panic at the thought of it, then I knocked the creepy jerk into a huge pile of darks, making way for the Little White Angel to hover over my right shoulder where she brought me hope and the best idea of 2020. “Take the laundry away, my child. Take it away.” And with that, I headed to the kitchen and grabbed the garbage bags from beneath the sink. I proceeded to stuff and suffocate the majority of that godforsaken laundry into 4 bulging white plastic bags that I hauled straight to my car. That night, I traveled through the Candy Cane Forest to the Tide Laundromat located in a typical suburban strip mall. This is where I dumped my 42 pounds of Holiday Laundry and where I returned the next day to find it unrecognizable — washed, fluffed, folded, and bundled tightly in plastic. I paid for the Peace of Christmastime when I shelled out $95 for this service, and it was the best money I spent all year.
Of course, now my challenge is not to let it happen again. I can’t justify “taking the laundry away” on a regular basis. There are three able-bodied people in the house who can do laundry and all the other tasks I’ve mentioned. And with the New Year upon us, we must look at different ways of staying on track. When we “divide and conquer” each of us tackles a different chore during a focused period of time, making lighter work for everyone. We definitely need to do more of this in 2021. The result is sure to be more clean underwear!
Reflecting on 2020 as a whole, it seems fair to deem it The Year of Dirty Laundry. Stains. Grime. Mismatched socks most days. As the Grinch would say, 2020 “stinks, stank, stunk” in multiple ways. But did it entirely? No, of course not. If you say it did, you’re missing or forgetting something good about it.
If I think of this past year in terms of 7 Levels again, the following chronological themes come to my mind:
Hope – Any year typically begins with it. 2020 was no different and for the first two months, life was the former normal. Funny how it’s hard to even remember January and February, right?
Panic – With the month of March came a rush of uncertainty and strangeness. Many of us were sent home to work and never went back. I’m still working 100% remotely and have done so since Saint Patrick’s Day.
Closeness – April and May found not only me working at home, but my girls attending school virtually. Everyone was homebound. Those were some weird weeks in lockdown mode. I caught a mouse in my toaster. That pretty much sums up how quarantine went in those early days. (Here’s my blog about it – Counting Stuff During Quarantine.)
Uncertainty – The summer came and things seemed to be letting up some, but no one was sure about where they should go and how they should behave when they got there. Masks or no masks? Outdoors or indoors? Safe or sorry? These were the questions we asked ourselves.
Illness – School began in August. My girls wanted to attend in-person, so they did. Within two weeks of their return, I contracted COVID-19. I had been a careful person, so getting the dreaded virus was confusing and unsettling and disappointing and physically challenging. But we stayed home and beat it, thankfully without medical intervention. (Here’s my blog about it – Not Your Mom’s Guide to Coronavirus.)
Gratefulness – After the virus, in came The Fall. My favorite time of year. It was lovely, as always. I soaked up all its simple joys such as the rare chilly/sunny days and the leaves in all their luster. These aspects were fleeting; gone way too fast. Yet I was grateful for them. I was grateful for my antibodies. They were still present in my system on December 11 when I tested Positive for them. But who knows? They might be gone today. There are no guarantees, no “Good Until” dates.
Hope – Pairing well with the Gratefulness, here comes Hope again. Right where we started, before anyone had any clue what was ahead of us. We still don’t know what is ahead of us. We hear stories and theories and studies and highlights and lowlights. Beyond it all, we must cling to Hope.
I’m guessing these 7 Levels of 2020 feel familiar to many of you, too. Yes, we have collectively navigated through the piles of dirty laundry and the pits of despair that have surrounded us. Maybe you have even lived yourself in one or more of those pits at different points of this year. Many people in my circle have suffered from COVID, either directly or via loved ones. Those of us who have had it tend to kid around and refer to ourselves as “The COVID Club.” But shame on us, because it’s no joke. One dear friend lost her father to it, and they were close. (Hugs, My Friend.) Hundreds of thousands of American families have lost people they care about. I pray that I won’t.
Much like Buddy the Elf who emerged into NYC through a grimy tunnel, we are walking through a time tunnel these next couple of days – one that connects 2020 to our All-New Year. Let’s not be naïve about this milestone. All the bad from this year won’t be gone, yet a good portion of it will be in our rear view. All the good things we’re seeking from 2021 won’t be directly on the other side, yet more good could be ahead. We will say farewell to this year, yet none of us will soon forget it.
I will remember 2020 as the one where COVID didn’t beat me, but The Laundry nearly did.