Our dryer broke just after Thanksgiving. It had been on it's last legs for a couple of weeks but it chose to go out with a dramatic and expensive flourish. The same day it gave up the ghost, Knute's car ended up on the side of RT 42, in need of a new alternator, battery, and various small parts.
We've since replaced the dryer; the new one came the day after Christmas. Knute's car was an easy enough fix as well, one made slightly less spendy by Knute's handy do-it-yourself skills.
But as our breakdowns and repairs tend to come in threes, I've been on the lookout for what might be next. Sure enough, our dishwasher has conked out again and is now waiting patiently for the repairman contracted by our Home Owner's Warranty to make his way though the snow dumped upon all of us in the Midwest on Thursday.
For the few weeks we were without a dryer, I washed our clothes here and then loaded them up and headed out with little Tom to our local laundromat. What was an extra chore for me was an utter thrill for him: a huge store filled with sudsing and twirling washing machines and walls of dryers that waited for his little hands to slide quarters into their slots.
Folding and waiting and watching our clothes spin, I was taken back to when Knute and I were first married. Our little apartment complex in Rhode Island had coin operated washers and dryers that worked horribly if at all. More often than not, we spent our Sunday afternoons at the laundromat up the street from us, the two of us giggling and goofing as we waited and folded and waited some more.
That first apartment was without a dishwasher as well so we both squeezed our tiny galley kitchen every night to wash and dry the days dishes. Our pups (two German Shorthaired Pointer puppies in a 600 sq foot apartment is proof enough of our status as dog lovers) would pile upon each other right at the edge of where the carpet in the the dining area met the cold kitchen floor.
Wednesday night, as I unloaded the dirty dishes from the busted dishwasher (because of course it was filled to the max when it died on me) and piled them on the counter with the dinner dishes (a messy, sticky meal requiring a large number of pots and pans), I sighed. Every inch of counter space was filled; I knew it would take a good half an hour of washing and drying to regain any sort of order. Knute had headed out to the garage to finish up the smaller repairs on his car before the big snow hit; it was left to me and my two already chapped and chafed hands to finish the task.
About five minutes into the suds, Huck walked into the kitchen.
"Wow, Mom! That's a LOT of dishes! Can I help?"
He grabbed a dishtowel and a glass and swiped it dry enough for my standards. And for the next ten minutes, he and I worked together, me washing, him drying, both of us being silly, until a good portion of the work was done and something else caught his fancy - blank index cards and a stapler.
Hearing us laughing and talking, Becky walked in just as Huck finished.
"Can I help, too, Mom?
She took up where Huck left off and the two of us finally wiped the last plate and fork dry, talking about nothing and everything the whole time.
The satisfaction of getting a job done is inherent to the simple work that keeps a household running; in my race for efficiency and better time management techniques, I sometimes forget this.
But there is also this: the chance to slow down, to work together, to let my mind wander and dream, to find myself working in a companionable silence with my children or with the back and forth flow of conversation that might not otherwise happen.