We didn’t notice it at first. The longer camping trips brought it to our attention. At first it only ran around the trailer, like the children, scurrying under blankets, burrowing inside sleeping bags, or scrambling under tables. My first attempts at containing it inside canvas bags worked…for a while. But eventually I accumulated more canvas bags stuffed with laundry than the mailmen had stuffed with letters to Santa Claus in the courtroom scene of Miracle on 34th Street. The problem had earned everyone’s attention. It was time to do the laundry.
We simply don’t have the space in our pop-up tent trailer to bring along enough clothes for a three-week camping trip. Nor do we even own enough underwear to last the duration. Hence, laundry must be done on vacation. Since no one else seems to know how to run the washer or dryer–no matter how hard I try to teach him or her–if we want clean underwear, I must do the laundry.
When people are on vacation, they try to avoid whatever is considered “work.” I am no exception. Doing laundry for a family of seven is definitely “work.” Think of five children who “wear” everything…juice, catsup, mustard, jelly, soda, grease, and yes, just plain dirt! Do I want the clothes clean or just washed? Right. Pre-treat and scrub. By the time I truly must do laundry, i.e. no more clean underwear, I have about eight large loads.
I look for a time when all six washers are available, usually during dinnertime after a day of hiking in the mountains. Campgrounds usually have half the amount of dryers. You must combine loads. After we gathered all the laundry and compressed it into one immense sea bag, we needed to lug it to the laundromat. Campgrounds seem to locate their laundromats on the crests of hills. I’ve always had to lug laundry uphill. It may not seem like a difficult task until you realize the laundry bag weighs the same as a woolly mammoth.
We were in Nova Scotia at the time, and my husband was in charge of dinner and watching the rest of the kids. My daughter Michelle helped me drag the laundry uphill. A concerned retired lady lounging in front of her plush Winnebago motor home informed us that we’d rip the sea bag dragging it along, so we hoisted the bag millimeters off the ground and on wobbly legs painstakingly stepped past the lady’s indoor/outdoor carpeted campsite. Immediately afterward, we collapsed from the effort. We rested atop the mammoth. Regaining strength, we continued our uphill drag.
When we got to the top of the hill, we realized that the laundromat was on the other side of the camp store which was cut into the side of the mountain. Instead of dragging the laundry around the store and in front of people who’d tell me I’d rip the bag, I stopped at the back wall. I asked Michelle to run around to the laundromat entrance to see if there were any flowers by the wall. Negative. I kicked the dead mammoth over the ten foot cliff with both feet, darted around the building, and dragged the carcass inside.
Quickly, I started all six washers before anyone else came inside the laundromat, separating, squirting the worst stains, and shoving clothes by the fistfuls inside the filling tubs. I sent Michelle to the camp store several times for more Canadian dollar coins, the only coins the machines would take. Fellow campers came in. “Oh, are you still here?” I couldn’t leave. Someone would take my wet clothes and put them on the floor to use the washer. Plus, I had more loads to do. Three dryers…forever. Combining loads, more trips for Michelle to the camp store for coins. Separating seven people’s clothing on a two foot by two foot table. Badgering the family for help transporting clean clothes back to the trailer and into everyone’s respective travel bag. All before the clothes get dirty…again!