For the last eight or nine years, my mama has made a habit of walking into my house, putting away her things, and then relaying the latest news for approximately seven and a half minutes before she starts looking around for something she can wash.
I will be honest. She has never had to look very far. Because if there is any consistent trend in this house, it is that the laundry is always – always – on the verge of total mutiny. I’m convinced that it creeps out of the laundry baskets and to the edges of our closet doors while we sleep, and it’s only the sound of our alarms that makes it retreat.
But make no mistake: one day it will overtake us. Something about the laws of mass and whatnot.
Anyway, Mama LOVES to “make laundry” (seriously. two lightly used dishtowels = full load of laundry.), but over the last couple of years, I’ve started to feel guilty about that. So lately, whenever she’s at our house for a visit, I try to intercept the laundry basket from her. I say no, sit down, rest, hang out with Alex, let’s go get a pedicure – leave the laundry alone.
When Mama and Daddy pulled up to our house yesterday, they found me way, way behind on my Thanksgiving schedule. I’ve been sick for two days, and I haven’t done any of my normal prep work. It’s fine, really; I enjoy a culinary challenge, so I’ve been kind of tickled that today’s cooking pace has been fast and furious. But in the midst of running some cheese through the food processor around 7:45 this morning, I realized that there is a child in this house who doesn’t have so much as a clean pair of blue jeans.
So I looked over at Mama and said, “Hey – if you want to tackle the laundry in Alex’s closet while I’m cooking – well, it’s all yours.”
Now listen. If someone said that to me, I would probably think of some not-nice words – and I might even feel a little insulted.
But my mama? Apparently I dialed right in to her love language. She lit up like a Christmas tree. Popped straight up out of her chair.
And I realized in that moment – after years of trying to modify Mama’s tendency to wash, dry, and fold her way through her visits – that it’s not about the laundry.
It’s about being needed and loving her family.
I can be a tough person to love sometimes. I’m independent, stubborn, and I am always quick to say that I like to tackle things on my own. I like to call it self-sufficiency, but really it’s some hard-core control.
That’s why seeing Mama’s face this morning got my attention. It reminded me that maybe I should be a little bit less mindful of what I think Mama should want to do – and a little more mindful of giving the grace of being needed. Because what feels like a chore to me may feel like service to someone else. And service is almost always a way that people show their love.
I don’t want to take that away from somebody, you know?
So if you were at my house right now, you’d find me elbow-deep in sweet potatoes – and you’d hear the washing machine running like a playlist on repeat. Mama has laundered, bleached, and mended just about every item of clothing in a certain nine year-old’s closet.
It’s still hard for me to understand why in the world tending to the laundry has put such a spring in my mama’s step, why it’s put such a smile in her eyes.
But it has. There’s no doubt about it. And I’m grateful.
So I reckon I learned something today. Only took eight years for it to sink in.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.