When Butch and I first married, in January 1972, he was in the army at Fort Hood Texas. We lived just outside the base, in Copperas Cove, Texas. Copperas Cove was what my Louisiana born mother called a poke and plumb town. “If you poke your head around the corner, you are plumb out of town.” The entertainment options consisted of a bowling alley, Dairy Queen, and The Joy Drive In, which offered three movies that had already been on TV for $2 per car. Butch was an E-3, bringing home a whopping $349 per month, and I worked in an insurance agency in Killeen, Texas at the opposite end of the Army Base.
The very first Saturday we went on a date to the laundromat. At 11 am, with three loads in mid-cycle, the water supply to the washers slowed to barely a trickle. Looking back, I realized I should have been suspicious that we could walk right in to the only laundromat in a town full of renters, with no washers and dryers of their own, and find it empty. A woman came in about then to check on her clothes in the dryer. She explained that on Saturday mornings at 11 am, the fire department opened all the fire hydrants to clear the lines and ensure proper water supply in the event of a fire. This dropped the water pressure to nearly nothing, cutting off everything else. Worse, when the water came back on, it would be nasty. The sudden surge of water would force rust and sludge that had accumulated in the pipes out with it. She helped us quickly pull our clothes out of the washers so they would not be stained. We lost our quarters and had to let that cycle complete to flush the nasty water out of the pipes. This applied to hoses, sinks and bathtubs at home as well. In the future, we were careful to avoid the 11 am window on Saturdays. Welcome to small town Texas.
We would always fold the clothes together. Without realizing it, I was learning to fold sheets left handed. Because Butch was left-handed, this was just one of many things that I adapted over the years. I notice that when I hug people I hesitate to see which way they will veer, as I seem to hug left-handed as well. When my boys were around 5 and 9 years old, we were in Louisiana for a family reunion. The boy cousins were outside, establishing the pecking order, by sparring with one another. My aunt, watching them out the window, ask how my children learned to box left-handed. Asking her what that meant, she pointed out that they lead with the opposite hand from the others, catching them off-guard. I asked if their advantage might be the nightly sparring matches with their left-handed father rather than their stance. They were both more ambidextrous as they played soccer after learning in the back yard with a left-handed opponent who built them a full-sized goal to improve their skills.
Now I am folding sheets alone. How many parts of us are really parts of them? And each time one of these tiny pieces of them shows up in our daily routine, there is the bitter sweet reminder that they are gone. Too late we realize that those moments carried such meaning for us. It is like untangling a ball of yarn. If you’ve ever done that, you know it would probably be easier to throw away the whole mess and buy new. But we have no choice but to unweave our old life, taking care not to break the threads. Starting with the end, we follow the tangle back through its twists and turns, rolling the yarn into a new ball. There is no way to predict where the tangles will lead and no way to avoid following it where it goes. We just keep going because we know that as the ball we are creating is getting bigger and more prominent, the tangle we are working through is growing smaller and less daunting. Eventually the unpredictable twists and turns have all been conquered and we are well on our way to creating something beautiful in the future. As the new creation takes shape, the textures and colors of the old yarn add depth and character to our design.
It is just hard to believe that this tangle of us and them can really be something beautiful as we become us without them……………….