The other day on Instagram, my friend Colleen posted a picture of the inside of her dryer. It was a mess.
It seems someone had a blue ink pen hiding out in one of his pockets and as these things do, nothing went wrong in the washer. But once the load was switched over to the dryer — a load that included nice new oxfords from a fine department store along with uniforms and all kinds of other valuable clothing items — well that pen went nuts.
When I first looked at the picture I thought some kind of blue firecracker had exploded in a large drum. Which is basically what happened.
I saw Co later that night and she told me all the efforts they’ve been going through to recover. How they’re cleaning this inside of the dryer with a variety of cleaners, and how they’ve been soaking and scrubbing the clothes non-stop. Best of luck, Co! And many prayers.
All of this discussion (and mild heartache) reminded me of a similar catastrophe years ago. It was the first time we had a Dryer Disaster and really, doesn’t it take one really good accident like that to make you always (ALWAYS) check those pockets before loading the washer?
For me, it was forever ago. Ethan and Elliott were toddlers and Charlie was a tiny baby. We had gone out to eat and you can tell these were still the days before people could really even load their own pockets because I never checked pockets. We had gone to a restaurant with coloring sheets and crayons and one of the boys managed to put the tiny box of three crayons in the pocket of his overalls.
I washed the load and switched it over to the dryer and oh the horror when I opened the dryer door to discover red, green and yellow streaks everywhere. It was rendered more of a brown, if I recall. The clothes were covered with crayon smudges, and the inside the dryer was filled with streaks.
I was heartbroken.
Here I was, just entering the realm of a bigger family (three is a very big deal!) and having kids was already destroying my home. I considered us to have become a kind of “large” family and not a few months in I was already having my stuff ragged out. I could see the writing on the wall — and it was written in Sharpie being held by a small boy.
“I don’t want broken down stuff,” I remember wailing to Paul. The hours I spent cleaning the inside of my dryer were proof. The clothes couldn’t come clean and I was lucky that very few of the items were anything too important. I ditched the load and focused on the dryer.
The dryer. Oh the dryer! I couldn’t have it looking like this. I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to be such a cliche, such a predictable peek at family life.
I laugh now, of course, thinking about that fear of mine. “If I’m going to have a big family,” my attitude declared, “we’re not going to be victims of it.” And we weren’t — not in that instance. And in many ways we still are not. Just because you have a big family doesn’t mean…and you can insert what the doesn’t mean to you. It might mean you don’t have to wear cheap shoes. Or you don’t have to have a dirty car. Or that you can have a beautiful lawn despite the number of boys you’ve birthed (clearly that’s not our motto).
But you know, in lots of ways we are victims. We are “victims.” My grocery bill is through the roof. Our garage is a disaster (until we clean it. Then it’s clean. For a while.) Going out anywhere costs a lot. One of these days we’ll discuss the family couch. It needs help (but who wants to replace anything that gets treated with so little respect).
There are so many ways that having a lot of kids can sort of destroy things. To a degree. Because a lot of this you can counter (the couch is only as ragged out as we allow it to be. I suppose I could tell the kids to sit on the floor). You don’t have to settle for melted crayons in the dryer. You have what it takes to clean that mess up.
It’s a relief to discover, all these years later, that when you welcome kids into your world you are mostly a victim of love. Oh yes, that’s about as hokey as it gets. But it’s the absolute truth. You are opening up your heart and your home to a world of hurt — of loving until it hurts. Of laughing until you cry. Of (on bad days) crying until you laugh. Of giving until you can’t give any more.
And then starting it all over again when your feet hit the floor the next morning.
Keep up the good work, parents of the world. This is a worthy fight. It is beautiful and worth your energy. You can do it! You have the rest of your life to keep a clean garage.
And, as my mom says at the end of every conversation we have, You Are Doing Great!