11/15/2012 08:22 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2013

My Dirty Laundry

I love doing laundry.

I love the fact that there is a beginning (dirty clothes on the floor of the garage) a middle (sorted and washed, dried) and an end (folding and putting away).

For the past 21 years, since we've lived in this house, my laundry ritual has been to sort and fold while sitting on my bed, watching television. In an odd quirk of home design -- and most likely not to building code -- my washer and dryer, which are in my garage, are accessed through my closet. Don't ask. What happened because of this unwieldily configuration is I did virtually all of my kids laundry while they were growing up. Rarely did they have to do any laundry themselves -- partly because of my weird compulsion to fold clothes, and partly because I didn't want them tromping through my closet to the washer and dryer. So there you go. The laundry was mine.

Even so, I'm not complaining. The clothes I washed and folded were tangible signs of the growth of my kids -- from itty bitty socks to football player stinkers, from carters undies with hearts and teddy bears to thongs and strapless bras. There has been a wistful sense of time passing through the laundering of my family's clothing.

There have also been dozens of single socks that never found a mate -- but you know how that is.

I've washed t-shirts from elementary school carnivals, middle school baseball leagues, all-star softball teams, the football booster club and high school show choir. I've washed dozens of team jerseys. I've folded countless pairs of jeans, from Baby Gap to Levis, J Brand to 7 For All Mankind. I've dried footie pajamas and blankies, boxers and baby dolls. I've sorted cropped tops, tanks, short shorts and leggings. There were Barney tees, Power Ranger tees, Batman tees and Simpsons tees. I've smoothed and folded endless dirty sheets, from crib-sized to king-sized. I've shlepped towels to the washing machine hundreds of times, the smallest with a little hood for my children's tiny baby heads, the largest for late night pool and jacuzzi sessions in our backyard with their friends. And then one day they were gone, all those tees and tanks, leggings and blankies, sheets and towels and everything else. And it was just my husband and me, a manageable few loads per week.

I miss their stuff.

I know I may sound nuts, but laundry is life. It's what we wear -- how we show the world who we are, where we've been, what we believe, what teams we love and schools we go to. Each time I fold the laundry -- even now, when they're home for a visit -- I feel about as maternal as I possibly can. By neatly folding the shirts and rolling the socks, I am telling my kids -- and my husband, too -- I love you, I care about you, and I want you to look nice.

I love doing laundry.

Unloading the dishwasher? Not so much.