What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 32
The Load That Is Laundry 

[p.100]Remember the story about Sisyphus from Greek mythology? He’s the Corinthian king who was condemned to roll a big rock uphill for the rest of eternity because he blabbed one of Zeus’ secrets around Corinth, namely that Zeus wore a toupee. I can just hear the gods trying to decide what to do with Sisyphus as they lounged around Mt. Olympus one afternoon, sipping nectar and watching the NBA playoffs.

ZEUS, KING OF THE GODS: SO what are we going to do with this guy? Nobody mentions my hairline and lives! [Gets up and slamdunks a thunderbolt.]

POSEIDON, GOD OF THE SEA: Let’s condemn him to watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island for the rest of his life!

HADES, GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD: I’ve got an even better idea! Let’s make him roll a big rock uphill for the rest of eternity. Now that’s my idea of hell.

DIONYSUS, GOD OF GOOD TIMES: I’ll drink to that!

[Here, the gods all leap to their feet and give each other high fives, thereby causing several major earthquakes up and down the Greek coastline.]

You’ll notice that none of the Greek goddesses, who’d gone into Athens for the day to meet for brunch and shop at Nordstrom’s half yearly sale, were around to offer their suggestions. If they’d been present, they would have pointed out that rolling rocks uphill isn’t such a bad way to spend a few thousand years. Rolling a rock uphill, for instance, would allow Sisyphus to develop enviable upper body strength as well as work on his tan during the spring and summer months and before you knew it, young Corinthian maidens everywhere would start confusing him with Mel Gibson. No, the goddesses would have argued, if you want to punish the man, make him do his own laundry, including loincloths, for a week.

[p.101]GODDESSES, Sisyphus, we hereby sentence you to do your own laundry for the period of one week.

SISYPHUS, Oh no! Anything but that! A-a-a-r-g-h! [Jumps off Mt. Olympus, thus leaving his laundry for someone else to do.]

Laundry is the one task that never truly gets done at our house. Sometimes it gets washed. Sometimes it gets folded. Occasionally it even gets put away. But those three things hardly ever happen in the same decade, let alone the same day. Instead this is what usually happens to the laundry at our house. I spend a few hours washing and drying it, and then I heap it unfolded on the couch for a few minutes so I can go make a phone call. Meanwhile my kids immediately invite all their friends over so they can sit on the laundry, then roll in it, and finally start shooting it through the basketball hoop in the corner of our family room. The cat also inspects it to see if perhaps she would like to give birth there so by the time I get off the phone I have to wash everything all over again.

I used to believe I have so much laundry because my kids think it’s much easier to toss all their clothes in the hamper at the end of the day rather than to fold them neatly and put them in a dresser drawer. But that alone doesn’t explain the sheer tonnage of laundry that greets me whenever I do the wash. That’s why I have developed this radical new scientific theory about laundry. (In fact, I am currently awaiting the outcome of a special session of the Utah State Legislature to see if I can get funding for continued research.)

Ann’s Theory about Why Household Laundry Appears to Double in Size Every Time You Get Around to Doing It

Laundry is actually a living organism, closely related to the single-celled animal known as the amoeba. Amoebas, as everybody knows by now, will start dividing in two whenever they get bored and can’t find anything decent to watch on television, so where there was once one amoeba, now there are fifty hanging out with each other and planning the next family reunion. It is the same with laundry. That’s why if you leave a pair of dirty sweatpants in the corner of your bedroom at night, there will be two pair of dirty sweatpants the following morning, and if you don’t put those two pair of dirty sweatpants in the washing ma-[p.102]chine right away, you will have four pair of dirty sweatpants before you’ve finished reading the morning paper.

This holds true for every item of laundry except socks. If you put a pair of dirty socks in the bedroom corner, there will only be one sock the next day and the mate, who’s on its way to South America with all of the money from your top drawer, will never be seen or heard from again. In fact, I’m thinking of going to South America myself.

I only hope someone manages to get my laundry done for me while I’m gone!