spiritual writings | retreat center directory

You're invited to visit our sister site DanJoseph.com, a resource site
featuring articles on spirituality, psychology, and A Course in Miracles.

Home | Writings | General | Robert Fulghum | Kindergarten part 3 | back   

Excerpted from All I Really Need to Know I Leaned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Copyright © 1986 by Robert Fulghum. Excerpted by permission of Villard Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"I am in charge of the laundry at our house. I like my work. It gives me a sense of accomplishment."

Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Leaned in Kindergarten , Part 3

I am in charge of the laundry at our house. I like my work. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. And a feeling of involvement with the rest of the family, in a way. And time alone in the back room, without the rest of the family, which is also nice, sometimes.

I like sorting the clothes – lights, darks, in-betweens. I like setting the dials – hot, cold, rinse, time, heat. These are choices I can understand and make with decisive skill. I still haven’t figured out the new stereo, but washers and dryers I can handle. The bell dings – you pull out the warm, fluffy clothes, take them to the dining-room table, sort and fold them into neat piles. I especially like it when there’s lots of static electricity, and you can hang socks all over your body and they will stick there. (My wife caught me doing this once and gave me THAT LOOK. You can’t always explain everything you do to everybody, you know.)

When I'm finished, I have a sense of accomplishment. A sense of competence. I am good at doing the laundry. At least that. And it's a religious experience, you know. Water, earth, fire--polarities of wet and dry, hot and cold, dirty and dean. The great cycles--round and round--beginning and end--Alpha and Omega, amen. I am in touch with the GREAT SOMETHING-OR-OTHER. For a moment, at least, life is tidy and has meaning. But then, again ...

The washing machine died last week. Guess I overloaded it with towels. And the load got all lumped up on one side during the spin cycle. So it did this incredible herky-jerky, lurching dance across the floor and blew itself up. I thought it was coming for me. One minute it was a living thing in the throes of a seizure, and the next minute a cold white box full of partially digested towels with froth around its mouth, because I guess I must have fed it too much soap, too. Five minutes later the dryer expired. Like a couple of elderly folks in a nursing home who follow one another quickly in death, so closely are they entwined.

It was Saturday afternoon, and all the towels in the house were wet, and all my shorts and socks were wet, and now what? Knowing full well that if you want one of those repair guys you have to stay home for thirty-six hours straight and have your banker standing by with a certified check or else they won't set foot on your property, and I haven't got time for that. So it's the laundromat over at the mall.

Now I haven't spent a Saturday night in the laundromat since I was in college. What you miss by not going to laundromats anymore are things like seeing other people's clothes and overhearing conversations you'd never hear anywhere else. I watched an old lady sort out a lot of sexy black underwear and wondered if it was hers or not. And heard a college kid explain to a friend how to get puke off a suede jacket.

Sitting there waiting, I contemplated the detergent box. I use Cheer. I like the idea of a happy wash. Sitting there late at night, leaning against the dryer for warmth, eating a little cheese and crackers and drinking a little white wine out of the thermos (I came prepared), I got to brooding about the meaning of life and started reading the stuff on the Cheer box. Amazing. It contains ingredients to lift dirt from clothes (anionic surfactants) and soften water (complex sodium phosphates). Also, agents to protect washer parts (sodium silicate) and improve processing (sodium sulfate), small quantities of stuff to reduce wrinkling and prevent fabric yellowing, plus whiteners, colorant, and perfume. No kidding. All this for less than a nickel an ounce. It's biodegradable and works best in cold water-ecologically sound. A miracle in a box.

back to the Robert Fulghum index ->