The Time I Gave Myself the Best Gift Ever

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Written by Ray Ceo Jr. | Edited by Lisa Schulman
   I opened my closet door on Saturday morning, and found myself buried under an Avalanche of dirty laundry. It certainly wasn’t how I had planned to start my morning, as I was going to do just one load of laundry But, as it has been sometime since I had done even that, here I found myself, with mismatched socks surrounding me in tight balls like boulders, darks and lights commingled with each other, and my pants had somehow wrapped their legs around me and were strangling me like a boa constrictor.

I’m certain I blacked out from the assault.  

When I came to, I knew there was no way in hell I was going to get away with doing just one load of laundry. There was too much of it to shove into the washing machine. I also didn’t have the patience to do it one load at a time. 

Instead, I wrapped the Hawaiian shirt my dad had given me around me like a comfort blanket and cried a little. It was in this silk shirt’s comfort that I was reminded of an instance when I was little and my underwear had been folded up really tiny and packed in a plastic bag, vacuumed sealed, and delivered to our hotel room door.

When I was younger, my dad, stepmom, little sister and I packed ourselves onto a plane for a visit to Hawaii. My dad was working out there regularly (seriously) and so, he had both frequent flyer miles and hotel points, and between upgrading his room to a larger suite and flying us out there for free, a trip to Hawaii was a luxury we wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

But, to save on baggage fees and my parents’ back health, as well as the mental real estate of having to keep track of so many bags, my little sister and I were allowed just one small suitcase. We packed for a week, despite it being a two-week long vacation.
And after a week in Hawaii, and despite us wearing only swim trunks each day, we needed laundry done. But because this was a fancy hotel, they didn’t have a washer and dryer on site for guests to use and, rather than try to find a laundromat, my parents opted to send our clothes out for washing and drying.  What was returned to us was the best pressed, most conservatively packaged underwear I had ever seen. Further, all of  my shirts were on nice thin hangers and my jeans, which I don’t think I had ever seen ironed, pressed smooth and looking brand new. I had heard of people ironing their jeans, but I have never done that and when you look at my legs in those denim leggings, you would know this to be true.
This was certainly a far cry from how I had sent my clothes which was wet, wrinkly, sand-infused, and rolled into a mushy ball that smelled like the ocean.
As I lay wrapped in my Hawaiian shirt laying in the fetal position on the floor outside my doorway, I remembered this service. 

An idea was formed.

Call it laziness. Call it my creative brain.  Call it deep-rooted psychological trauma. Call it not knowing how to be an adult. Or call it an inability to properly care for myself.
Call it whatever you will, but I hate laundry.
Like, I really, truly hate doing laundry.
When I was growing up, I was blessed to have a mom and a stepmom who were possessive over the laundry machines and the clothes washing process. While I think they both knew I made a habit of leaving money in my pockets and this may have been a way of getting back my unearned allowance, I didn’t really have many opportunities to do laundry.
And then I was extradited under the guise of higher education and started college I lived in a dorm and I had to learn to do laundry for basically the first time. I remember diving headfirst into attempting to wash my clothes only to later learn, thanks to a very kind RA, that I had put all my clothes in the dryer. And she and I still couldn’t figure out where I had put the laundry detergent. Some things are better off not knowing.
Bless her for showing me how those machines worked. I did my own laundry that year, every Tuesday morning, since I didn’t take Tuesday classes but worked every Tuesday night. It was like clockwork. Because our dorm room was small and my roommate was the polar opposite of me and wouldn’t allow for dirty clothes to exceed the permitted hamper space, I washed everything that was dirty. 

By the time my junior year rolled around, and I was living in my own apartment, my laundry skills were met with poverty. It was one thing when you had financial aid and your dad paying for room and board, and you had a decent part-time job. It was something else entirely when you have an apartment you’re paying for, mostly paying for your own food, and are using the quarters you previously hoarded for laundry to instead put gas in your car. Given these factors, and the fact that my lovely apartment’s laundry room was too far for me to carry laundry because, let’s face it, up and down stairs is just about far enough, I didn’t do my laundry until I had to.  And usually I brought it over to my parents’ house and let my washer-machine protective stepmom do a load or two. She is a saint like that.
And whenever I could, despite being in poverty and not having quarters, I somehow managed to find the means to just go and buy an appropriate work shirt or pair of pants at Target on my way to work when my clothes were dirty Anything, truly anything, to get out of having to do laundry.  

In the two years I lived in that complex, I can say I found myself in that laundry room three times. Once, was to post a flyer for a found cat that had somehow made a home on my back-patio.

    It shouldn’t be anyone’s surprise that the moment I met a guy who said he enjoyed doing laundry, I married him. And it was when I found out that was just about the only thing I liked about him the divorce led to closeted stacks of dirty clothes and as the dirty clothes continued to pile, this is where I found myself buried in a Hawaiian shirt and socks and other clothes I didn’t know I even owned.
It was my birthday weekend, and I had stacked away some “fuck you money” – that is, money I could potentially blow on a birthday gift for myself. So, on this special day, knowing I needed my laundry done and knowing I deserved a gift that would make my life truly better, I crawled like a baby to my phone, and quickly scanned the internet. 

Two hours later, some stranger was taking trash bags full of my dirty clothes away from my house. About eight hours and hundreds of dollars later, my clothes, all of them, were on skinny hangers and in vacuum sealed bags and were all clean. All of it. Every damn thing I owned. My closet was neatly arranged, and I was no longer afraid to open my closet door and be buried in an avalanche of my dirty clothes. To this day, this is the best gift I ever gave myself.

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