When my kids were little, we played all sorts of made up games, most of which involved my singing.  We played one that the boys called, “I Know an Old Lady.”  If it sounds vaguely familiar it’s because everyone knows the folk song I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (written and composed by Rose Bonne and Alan Mills).  Anyway, our game evolved out of my singing that song to Christian and Jared.  We’d get in the car to go somewhere and one or both of them would shout, “Let’s play I Know an Old Lady, mom!”  So I would start with the first verse.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.  I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.  Perhaps she’ll die.”

Next, one of the boys would shout out something for the old lady to swallow.  For example, Christian might shout, “I know an old lady who swallowed a book!”  I’d echo his verse and add the rhyme.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a book.  She swallowed a book ’cause she was too tired to cook.  Perhaps she’ll die.”  Then, of course, both boys would erupt in laughter.

This back and forth could go on endlessly, with the boys trying to stump me by shouting out bizarre, hard-to-rhyme objects for the lady to swallow, followed by my attempts at composing a verse that both rhymed and made sense.  One of my all time favorites was, “I know an old lady who swallowed the TV remote.  She swallowed the remote and changed channels in her throat.  Perhaps she’ll die.”

Another game we played evolved from the children’s song. Old MacDonald Had a Farm. We sang our version like this.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a (name of family member).  E-I-E-I-O.  With a…” Here’s where the fun started.  Instead of an animal sound, like in the real song, we’d plug in something about the family member.  For example, for Pat, we’d shout out x-ray.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a DADDY!  E-I-E-I-O.  With an x-ray here, and an x-ray there, here an x-ray, there an x-ray, everywhere an x-ray, x-ray.  Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.”

By the way, for those of you wondering about all the x-rays, my husband is not accident prone.  He is a radiologist.  Get it now?  We might plug in something golf related, or  “GO REDSKINS,” for Pat also.  For the kids we’d plug in homework, baseball, Harry Potter, Legos, etc.  Everybody in the family including aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins dogs, EVERYBODY had a variety of things sung about them.  Everybody, that is, except for ME.  Without fail, whenever we played this game and it was my turn, Christian and Jared would sing the same thing about me.  ALWAYS.  I swear.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a MOMMY!  E-I-E-I-O.  With laundry here, and laundry there, here laundry, there laundry, everywhere laundry, laundry.  Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.”

So it came as no surprise to me when Christian showed up at home on Tuesday night before Thanksgiving with four trash bags and a laundry hamper stuffed full of dirty laundry.  Apparently he hadn’t done laundry for close to a month.  For those of you who are not parents of college students, be advised there is something putrid smelling about college student laundry that doesn’t happen when they are living at home.  I’m not sure how or why it happens, but HAVE NO FEAR, my college boy!   No one, I MEAN NO ONE can do laundry like your mama!

When I’m tackling one of those super sized, my-kid-just-came-home-from-college-with-more-dirty-clothes-than-I’ve-ever-seen-in-one-place-outside-of-a-commercial-laundromat jobs, I stick to a rigid protocol.  I’m very good at adhering to rigid protocol, especially if I think it will make my life easier down the road.  First comes what I like to call the primary sorting.  You know, separating everything into the five primary laundry loads:  towels, sheets, darks, lights, and whites.  Everyone does this right?  Next come the subsequent levels of sub-sorting which is the process of organizing the main loads into smaller loads by clothing type.   Let’s take Christian’s darks as an example.  I sub-sorted the main dark load into two smaller secondary loads classified as dark tops and dark bottoms.  These smaller loads were sub-sorted again into tertiary loads.  The dark tops were sub-sorted into the tertiary loads of dark t-shirts, dark collared shirts, dark sweaters, dark sweatshirts, and dark workout shirts.  The dark bottoms were sub-sorted into the tertiary loads of dark jeans, dark twill pants, dark athletic shorts, dark sweat pants, dark underwear, and dark socks.  The process of sub-sorting continues (quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, etc.) until the loads are small enough to fit into the washing machine.  Once, sub-sorting is complete, stubborn stains are pre-treated and scrubbed and finally loads are sent through the washing machine and dryer, folded and stored (or packed in the case of college students) away.

Maybe you think it sounds like I’m a little compulsive, but I’ll tell you what.  I like order.  The principles that govern the way I do laundry are fundamentally the same as those principles that compel my behavior at the grocery store check out counter.  In the same way I like to place my groceries on the conveyor belt in the order in which I will eventually unpack them from the bags and put them away at home, I like to sort my laundry in such a way as to make folding and putting it away as easy as possible.  You know the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.   I can’t really explain it, but it sort of makes sense.  You know what I mean.

By the time I finished with Christian’s laundry, I had systematically sorted, stain treated, washed (in eco-friendly, phosphate-free, detergent, mind you), sent through the dryer, folded and helped Christian repack 13 loads of laundry.  It was poetry in motion.  I’m not ashamed to tell you that for the better part of two days there was laundry here and laundry there, here laundry, there laundry, everywhere laundry, laundry, but it was worth it.  Dirty laundry that I could barely bring myself to touch was once again clean and fresh.  Amazing. All I can say is  E-I-E-I-O.

TIll tomorrow…Good night.  Sleep tight.


7 thoughts on “E-I-E-I-O

  1. I’m so glad someone else shares my passion for laundry sorting! I must admit, I also sort with the folding…and the putting away…

    • You go girl! With three kids at home it’s the only way to go. Since this essay was focused on only Christian’s, I omitted my first line of defense against a lot of laundry produced by the entire family, which is to sort into smaller loads by person. In a really bad week I really can get down to the quaternary loads. It’s scare isn’t it?

  2. That is hysterical. I do sort my laundry but not quite to that level; however, I have never experienced a college boy’s laundry. Is that what I have to look forward to? Could I just freeze my boys at this age instead?

  3. I know that drill well…I don’t think my son knows that there are washing machines in college towns..or he says it smells better when I do it…The wet towels are the best in the bottom of the hamper…but now we have the second one’s laundtry added to it…At least girls do their own sometimes….My brother used to walk in the door with arms full of dirty clothes and and big smile…”Here is my ticket home mom”

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