The Importance of Fabric Softener
I listen intently for the tell-tale wooshing sound from the downstairs washing machine. Once I hear it, I know I have so many seconds to dash down the steps, grab the fabric softener, lift the lid and empty the blue liquid into the rising water of the final rinse. Making that final rinse is vital because my two young sons’ sheets and the cloth snuggle diapers they use to press against their noses at night are in there. It’s imperative, in my mind, that they be as soft and sweet smelling as possible.
This gets me thinking. Why doesn’t my husband obsess about the wooshing sound? Why doesn’t he feel the anguish when the cycle is missed and the whites end up sitting stiff and scentless in the laundry basket? Can we be that different? More importantly, why isn’t he more like me?
As I obsess about this fundamental difference in our marital relationship, I think about my own parents. Where did my value of fabric softener come from? I think back to my childhood and “Friday chores”, the day my mom set aside each week for cleaning. When the wood would shine with a new polish, the carpets vacuumed and beds would get a fresh cover of sweet smelling soft sheets. Aha The origin of my obsession Come to think of it – this really came from my mother. My father wouldn’t have cared if the layer of dust on the floor was knee deep as long as there was a clear path to his bookshelf.
In many ways my parents were different from one another. But many times they seemed to meld into this “parent person.” My husband and I try to maintain that united front too, teaching the fundamental rules that we should enforce together like safety, good nutrition, being nice to one another, sharing, and limiting Barney videotapes to five to name a few of them. But sometimes I think I’m so busy creating a seamless parent that I forget what makes my husband and I unique and how that can enhance our children’s lives too. Sometimes, I get so caught up with having us think the same, that I forget we have different thoughts. Anyway, I think our children enjoy what makes us different. I couldn’t teach my son the first thing about hitting a wiffle ball off the roof of the house like my husband can. And only with me does my son enjoy standing on a chair at the kitchen counter helping me stir the batter for zucchini muffins.
Having children didn’t make my parents into this strange beast with two heads with a sign hanging around its neck reading “Parent”. I will always remember each of them on their own. My father’s passion for reading and learning along with his humor and wit. My mother’s creativity, love of the theater, generosity and positivity.
As the blue fabric softener disappears and I close the lid of the churning washer, my ears hear a familiar sound coming from the living room upstairs. There is a bump followed by mad giggles. The two boys have stripped the pillows off the couch and onto the floor and are taking turns jumping on their father who is buried underneath. This is one of their favorite games and it occurs to me, yes, our boys will remember the soft sweet smell of their beds at night. But, they will also remember jumping into a tangled pile of pillows with their father below. They’ll look back at the times they sat next to their mother at the theater and delighted in the experience of a live performance. They’ll think about how their dad placed marshmallows on their hooks as they stood by the lake’s shore fishing in the early morning light. The scrapbook of dad’s artistic homemade birthday party invitations and the afternoon treks with mom to the library. They’ll appreciate dad’s love of baseball and mom’s addiction to tennis. And they will be better people (as I am) for knowing those two people, unique and different, loved them the same – with all their hearts.
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