Dad would do laundry on Sunday afternoons after church. Mom would be away hosting an open house and he would get the notion that it was time to Help Mom by doing the laundry. I am mostly entirely sure that Mom did not need – in fact did not want – Dad to do the laundry but was too busy to say anything about it.
The washing part was easy. The laundry machine washed the laundry without me or Dad having to do anything about it, and I took advantage of that part to sneak off (usually to read). It wasn’t until it was out of the dryer and needed folding that I would hear Dad’s bellow, summoning me to the basement.
The first most horrible thing to fold was underwear that did not belong to me. The memory of it is so distressing that now, as a full grown adult, I do not fold my underwear nor the underwear of anyone else in my house. It goes in the drawer in a pile. The second most horrible thing to fold was the towels because Dad was very particular about how the towels were folded. From laundry day to laundry day I would forget the precise movements and need to be taught again, which prompted his rolling his eyes. “We did this last week. How do you not remember?” I didn’t remember. I never remembered. And it would take lots of prompting to get me to fold it just right. To this day I’m not sure if I subconsciously forgot the folding technique in hopes that he would throw his hands up in exasperation and declare me free of needing to help. If that was my plan, it never worked.
When the folding was done Dad would employ his Super Dad Technique for getting all the laundry up the stairs with no laundry basket. He would start with me and a tall stack of folded washcloths and dishtowels. He would cram the topmost washcloth up under my chin, and have me stretch out my arms for the bottom dishtowel, steadying them and compressing them so that they did not fly out all over. Once he was sure I had it, he would pick up his own pile from the folding table by tipping the stack just enough to get the topmost bath towel under his own chin, and slide his hands under the bottom. Then we would toddle up the stairs like the Red Queen in stiff neck ruffles desperately trying not to drop anything, and argue at the top about who was more capable of working the knob on the linen closet door.