(remember how exciting it was to hear the ice cream man coming down the street?)
Sometimes it feels like life is a mean big brother twisting our arms behind our backs until we say Uncle. That’s how this whole year has been - just one financial disaster after the next, requiring every cent we could scrounge up until there was nothing left. And we might have still been okay, if Troy’s employer (and friend) hadn’t died in July. As of that moment, work has dwindled away. But the bills and the hard breaks keep on comin’.
On top of everything, a couple days ago our washing machine broke, and yesterday the repairman told us She’s a goner. Meanwhile, we have a family of six living here (one of them being an infant- need I say more!), and mountains of dirty laundry. MOUNTAINS. And in the heatwave, it was starting to get smelly.
So last night my husband and I had a date at the Laundromat. Troy was depressed, loading laundry into the car. He didn’t want me to come, wanted to protect me from the reality of our current situation. But I said “We’re sticking together. Anyway, Evan will love it.”
Just to depress Troy even further, the Laundromat is sandwiched between a seedy liquor store and the Candy Cat strip club. There were sketchy characters hanging out in the parking lot, looking like the cast of a David Lynch film. And add to that, it was still 100 degrees at night, humid, and no air conditioning. So… imagine Tennessee Williams meets David Lynch. At the Laundromat.
But Evan didn’t know any of that. For a five year old, the Laundromat is an arcade. He was thrilled putting dollars in the change machine to watch the coins come clink, clink, clinking out the bottom. He got to throw the clothes in the front loading washers, put the quarters in, press the buttons and watch our clothes tumble in the soapy water. He ran from washer to washer, delighted to see the different stages: the spinning, the tumbling, the suds. His enthusiasm even brought a tired smile to a few of the other sweaty Laundromat patrons. He made friends with other children whose exhausted parents toiled away. The Thai man who ran the seedy liquor store made origami for him and told him stories, then gave me his home remedy for Evan’s cough (crushed chili peppers).
In two hours we had completed ten loads of laundry, and as we headed home exhausted, our hair drenched with sweat, we were all quiet in the car. Evan no doubt was replaying the scene- remembering the suds and the tumbling, the quarters spilling out of the change machine. I flashed back to 1995 – the year after our house burned down and we were bankrupted. Both Troy’s recording studio and my clothing business burned with the house- so we lost our home and our jobs in one night. We were so damn broke, just busting our asses to dig ourselves out of a hole. God those were hard times. Our son Taylor and daughter Cristen were just little kids then, and we tried to provide them with as normal a childhood as possible. When our utilities were cut off, we set up a tent in the backyard and went camping. We made smores and slept under the stars. The kids thought it was great fun. When we couldn’t afford groceries, I made pancakes for dinner- we called it crazy-mixed-up-backward day. They loved that. When our car broke down, Taylor was thrilled to take a bus ride with his dad. At only five years old, it was a real highlight for him.
And here we are today, hard times all over again. I guess its human nature to see the negative in everything, to get caught up in our fear. But having a child forces you to see things differently. Every situation is new and exciting for them. God I can remember how it felt just hearing the tinny recording of the ice cream truck. That’s what I’ve lost as an adult, feeling enthusiasm for life rather than just trudging through it. I forget that life is an adventure- all of it, the good and bad.
Crappy times like these are going to happen to us all at some time or another, so why do I get so depressed about it? These days will pass, just like they have before. Better days surely lie ahead. In the meantime, who says I can’t enjoy life anyway, and have fun in a sweaty laundromat? And I must have lost three or four pounds of water weight last night. Some people pay good money for that. Okay, let’s pretend I was at a spa, and today I feel deliciously relaxed and svelte.
Oh to be a child again, and delight in life no matter what comes. I want to recapture that spirit. I had it once. I can find it again, right?
Here is my challenge to myself today - to look at life with childlike wonder, to have no preconceived notions of good or bad, to enjoy the ride…at least for one day, and see what happens.Anyone want to join me?