When I was a kid, probably 9 or 10, I visited my grandma up north. And I was her little helper, always. Made sure my cousins that she watched while my aunts/uncles were at work were fed, entertained, disciplined, bathed, had their diapers changed, didn’t break more than one thing a day.
I kept my eyes on the sink when she was filling it up to do the dishes just in case she forgot to turn the water off, which she always did, even before her memory and mobility depleted. I stood right next to her, well, 2 feet away because she didn’t want me to get burned, when she made food and asked her to teach me again when I got older. And I helped her fold laundry.
And I don’t know why, but I thoroughly remember this one moment from being 9 or 10 when she finally decided to teach me how to fold laundry “correctly.” I sat on the edge of her bed and began to fold and she let me do it my way until I got around to every type of clothing from that load of laundry, and then she undid it all. I was crushed because I was so proud to help and had breezed through it [and there were so many clothes and I just wanted to be done. I’ve always just wanted to get mundane tasks over with but have the feeling of accomplishment from getting them done.] I didn’t say anything, because I never spoke up when I was younger, but she saw the look that was on my face.
And she didn’t sympathize. She said, “now, you did a good job. I appreciate your help, don’t think that I don’t, but if you’re going to do this, you need to do it right and learn how to as early as possible.” So she started with underwear, because you always do those first. Then onto shirts and then pants. One by one, showed me how and explained and showed every detail, and had me pick up the same type of clothing and fold with her. And I remember pants especially, she folded them in half and used her finger to hook the crotch out, and I felt uncomfortable with it because anything pertaining to sexuality made me feel “wrong,” and I still don’t know why. But I had to or else I couldn’t move on. And she could tell that I was hesitant and didn’t question, just told me that it was necessary and it’s okay. And I did it. And it was no longer strange after three pairs of pants.
And goodness, I don’t know why there was so much laundry when she had such an averaged sized, old fashioned washer and dryer, but I would never question that woman’s capabilities.
Eventually, we got to towels, and I didn’t get to those yet because we didn’t fold towels with clothes, but remember that I was SO reluctant the whole time folding my first one. And she just held her tongue until I finished one, and then showed me her very specific way. It was the “only” way to fold a towel, for her. She was a very specific, not picky, woman.
And even if her house didn’t have to be spotless and what not, it had to be particular- I learned that quickly. After we finished all of it and had it all set in the way that pleased her, she said to me, “see how good it all looks? That wasn’t so bad. You did a great job and I appreciate your help so much.” followed by, as she told me every time that I visited, “you’re going to be such a good mother. You take care of people.” followed with her predictable abruptness, “now get your ass up, ya doodlebug, let’s go.”
Now, that is all that I remember. We could have gone and watched Law & Order: SVU, which ended up being my favorite years later though I forgot that we used to watch it together, and it thrilled her when I told her that I watch it and love it about 3 years ago, or we could have gone and made food. I don’t know.
What I know is, again, that that woman taught me something. She taught me that it’s okay to be precise, and okay to fuck up and that it’s important to let people mess up, but not leave it and go fix it behind their backs later. She taught me to confront others when they do something wrong, and show them the right (best) way to as well as to make sure that they can accomplish it themselves and to talk to them and work with them, not at them. Not around them. She taught me not to shame for simple wrong doings, and taught me to still show appreciation and admiration for other’s efforts even if it’s not what you want/expect.
That woman always taught me something, and even if she seemed harsh, she wasn’t. Not with me. Or at least, I never perceived it as harsh. It was the only way that she knew how to care, and I admire that.
Love fiercely or not at all.
It doesn’t make you aggressive; it doesn’t make you harsh. She was compassionate, especially with me, always. I was her little helper and she was my best friend. And she never failed to teach me something.
And, I mean, she simply taught me how to fold laundry. So many lessons learned from folding laundry.
(~excerpt from my novel in the process of being written and I still have yet to know where or how to place this, but it matters)