The Lesson in the Laundry

My in-laws are visiting, which translates to them staying with us for a week. Sleeping arrangements have shifted, but that’s alright. As long as I remember to take tomorrow’s clothes out of my cupboard, because they’re sleeping in my bed and, well. Sleeping in when on holiday is acceptable. School run in pyjamas, less so.

The thing is, I’ve always got myself pretty worked up whenever they’ve come to visit. Frantically running around trying to give them different (cooked) lunches every day, and then different again (cooked) evening meals. That they like, and I like and Little Person likes (Mission Impossible right there). Trying desperately to make sure that there were four chairs to sit on, and the washing that happens every day would magic away into cupboards that I didn’t always have access to. Never satisfied, never still, never up to date – so caught up in making my house look nice that I forgot to think about keeping myself nice for my guests.

Not this time.

So yesterday when they arrived, there was still a huge pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded on the chair in the living room. (Normally, if guests were coming, this would be removed upstairs – but rearranged sleeping quarters and all that.) The pile got bigger during the afternoon. But I remembered the kind of food they used to serve up when I first met them, so I went to the shop and bought that. And left them to serve up their own lunch. And then gave them the same today, while serving up something different for myself.

And then I went upstairs and wrote a poem and played with Cat no 2 for 20 minutes. (Today that is, not yesterday.) Because I write poems. And Cat no 2 is part of the family too. (She’s not so keen on guests.)

Sure I’ve worked on that laundry pile, and we now have an extra place to sit, but that’s only because The Dude decided to help out with it while he was having a chat with his Dad. But more importantly, I’ve given myself space to be me, and them space to be them. Hospitality is not about Laundry – it’s about eating potatoes even though you don’t like them, doing homework with Little Person even though The Dude’s Dad decided to drill holes for a spot of DIY at that very moment, laughing that bit louder at jokes that are funny, and knowing when to keep your mouth shut. (Although, that’s not all it’s about. For the most part, I love hospitality at home.)

In my everyday life, sometimes I do get all the laundry done and put away – sometimes it doesn’t even get a chance to touch the chair. But I don’t define myself by my Laundry Pile success in real life, so why would I do that when my in-laws are here? They are people I love, value and respect, and I would much rather spend my time building the bonds, creating the memories, making them feel warm, and welcome and special. And if that means I have a laundry pile on a living room chair, I’ll sit on the floor.

So that’s what my Laundry Pile taught me.

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