A Mother’s Day Musing

It happened in the laundromat, not even in my own city. I suppose the place was appropriate. The time, too. Ten days before Mother’s Day. I was doing my son’s laundry. He was twenty-one, and you’d be right if you said I was babying him. The truth is, though, that I miss the mothering things I did for him now that he’ was away at school. Besides–it was exam week.

Anyway. Therewas this laundromat near the university where you could dry for free; they even gave the students free soap. That meant that I could do the eight loads of wash my son had saved up for ten dollars, so that’s where I went.

When I walked in, an older woman stopped me. “Don’t use that machine,” she said. “Mine’s broken. I’m supposed to use that.” I hadn’t noticed, but the floor by her machine was covered with water.

The proprietor of the laundromat appeared. He threw a blanket on the floor to absorb the water and began scolding the older woman. “You should have seen the water when you put your clothes in. You been comin’ here for a long time. I ain’t got time for this.”

The woman swore the machine had broken after she put her clothes in, but nobody took her side. Another woman, at the folding table behind me, shook her head in disgust. ”That machine was messed up ‘fore she got here.”

“It was?” I said. I really didn’t know. I had walked in after the fact. I had laundry to do.

I couldn’t help watching as I finished my laundry. The old woman approached a man standing by a washer. “It wasn’t my fault,” she said. “I put my clothes in and the water…there was no sign.”

“How could you have known?” said the man. What else could he say? He had laundry to do, too.

The proprietor grumbled as he mopped the floor.

As I watched, my eyes filled with tears. The woman kept doggedly on with her laundry, though certainly she was upset. Maybe she had failed to notice the broken machine, but her wrinkled, arthritis-gnarled hands smoothed the wrinkles from her laundry like an expert.

Why was I crying? Maybe because I’m old enough now to admit that I sometimes miss things I might have noticed when I was younger. Maybe because I’m old enough to admit that sometimes when things go wrong, it is my fault. Maybe because a laundromat is such a lonely, anonymous place. Maybe I don’t want to be old and alone and yelled at.

As I watched the old woman, I remembered my mother. She’s been dead for four years, and she had her share of being alone. She was sick for a long time before she died. She wasn’t able to go many places, and sometimes when she did, the people…well, you know the look. The “thank God it isn’t me” look. I know there were days when Mom longed for a kind word, longed to know that she mattered.

I wiped my eyes as I folded my son’s clothes.

The old woman headed for the door, balancing two-carefully folded baskets of clothes in a laundry cart. That would have been the end of it for me if I had not seen her stop to puzzle over getting the cart out the door. Two men were standing there, but neither of the moved. I couldn’t stand it.

“Need some help?” I said.

I grabbed the cart and maneuvered it over the threshold and out the door. “Which way are we going?”

“The blue car,” she muttered. “Thank you.” She wouldn’t look at me.

“Nice car,” I said as I lifted the baskets into her trunk.

“I had to load up myself,” she said. “My husband left early and ….” Her voice trailed off.

“It’s OK,” I said. “Have a nice day.” The tears had stopped.

When I walked back in the laundromat, one of the men standing by the door stopped me. “You’re a nice lady,” he said.

I smiled and walked on, but I wished he hadn’t commented. See, for that moment, that lady was my mom. For just a moment, I had the chance to love her again. For just a moment, time stopped. And that moment was private. Between me and my mom.

I love you, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day

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1 Response to “A Mother’s Day Musing”


  1. 1 Ron May 13, 2006 at 11:19 am

    I miss Grandma, too.


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