My laundry room is too small.
It never sees the sun.
And there’s not enough space to fold clothing so I am forever lugging huge baskets of clean wash to the master bedroom.
Over the years, in an effort to make the laundry closet a cheerier space, I’ve plastered the walls with my children’s we-have-to save-this artwork. Sometimes I pause caught by one of the kids’ pieces.
There’s the shaky scrawl of my son’s preschool This Is Your Life timeline.
And the finger-painted handprints of my daughter, carefully placed on yellow craft paper in the shape of a turkey.
The stick man made from mismatched buttons and long-dried leaves makes me smile.
My breath slows as I realize my kids won’t be making anymore construction paper projects. A heaviness settles in my abdomen and I can literally feel my heart beat. If I close my eyes I see a late summer afternoon. My son’s hair is long and bleached by the sun. My daughter splashes in the baby pool. And then I feel a prick of remorse.
Why didn’t I enjoy those moments more?
To where was I rushing?
So the pictures hang on the wall as evidence that each phase passes—that time is fleeting despite all the laundry that needs to be done.
On the floor of my lovingly decorated but tiny laundry room, squeezed next to the washer, is a two-foot-tall plastic Philadelphia Eagles bottle. Loose change that comes out in the wash is thrown in there.
And this reminds me of my father.
See, when I was a kid my family had a similar jar in our laundry room. With four kids, the laundry in my childhood home was never ending. Our laundry room could have doubled for the set of a Saturday Night Live skit it was so impressively messy. There were hundreds of widowed socks, multiple hampers, various pieces of sports equipment, and empty containers of detergent.
And a coin jar.
It sat on the countertop and we dropped our pennies, nickels, and dimes into it.
My dad said we were saving for a trip to Egypt.
A magical, ancient place—the home of pharaohs.
The Pyramids of Giza.
Camels. The Nile River. The Valley of the Kings.
My brothers, my sister, and I believed with every fiber of our beings that we’d travel to Egypt.
I guess most families have a jug for cast-off coins.
My dad knew we were never going to Egypt. For a family of six, it would have been cost prohibitive. And then we grew up and moved out. We started own lives. We forgot our childhood coin jar and the magic Egypt promised.
Now, it’s too late.
My father will never see Egypt.
He’s growing old and walking is tough. And Egypt is marred in politics and misunderstanding. The U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings. Egypt will only ever be a picture in a book for my dad.
I’ve come to accept that adulthood means surrendering to the finiteness of existence. Understanding that not everything is possible. And despite the popular modern philosophy that preaches, “Believe it and you will see it,” one cannot, by will alone, make something happen.
Even so I find myself telling my kids that anything is feasible. And I feel a little guilty, because I don’t exactly believe what I am saying. Nobody gets to pick his or her family or his or her country. Some dreams are determined by the luck of the draw—complete randomness.
Won’t the real world teach them soon enough?
People get sick.
Things don’t always work out.
Loose change vanishes.
So how do we prioritize a life?
What trips will we take?
Sometimes I think an acceptance that this is all I get is the best way to face the good and the bad. Acknowledge that nothing is predetermined, and yet everything is predetermined, play the cards dealt, and try to steer clear of buried land mines.
Still in my laundry room I keep a jar amongst the long ago drawings of my kids’ childhood.
I drop my pennies into it. And I try to conjure an airport and a stamp on my passport. And along with the scent of laundry detergent, I stumble upon the flashback of a toddler, his fingers wrapped around a blue crayon, a twinkle in his eye. His sister smiles beside him, the smear of glitter glue across her cheek like a sprinkling of stars.
One day I hope to see Egypt.
* * *
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
* * *
Need an idea for Sunday Dinner?
I made Turkey Meatball Spinach Tortellini Soup and the whole family loved it!
It’s only 300 calories per serving, but tastes like a 1000! Click Here for the recipe on SkinnyTaste.
Picture by Heather 🙂