For most of my young years, we didn’t own a washer and dryer, and I always assumed we couldn’t afford one, but it turns out Mom didn’t want them. Thirteen kids and she didn’t want to be able to launder clothes on the premises? Impossible! But Dad verified it when I was grown.
Instead of doing loads of laundry throughout each day, Mom preferred to knock out the gargantuan task in a few hours. So, a couple times a week she’d get up “before the crack of dawn," wake two or three of us younger kids (who didn’t attend seminary yet), borrow change from the older kids, then orchestrate the production line of loading the station wagon with dirty clothes.
Stuffed between mountains of stinky but sorted laundry, we endured the short jaunt in the dark over the hill to the local laundromat. Relieved to pile out, we hauled the clothes inside while Mom, much to the consternation of other early-birds, commandeered as many washing machines as she could without being rude. While the machines did their magic, we turned the rolling wire carts into bumper cars, playing recklessly under the spell of bright fluorescent lighting, the smell of Tide, and the loud whirring of washers and dryers. Our fun halted only when another customer complained about “those rambunctious kids” or when it was time to transfer all the heavy, wet clothes to the monster-size dryers.
Sometime between the drying and the folding came the best part: a trip to Winchell’s Donuts just a few doors down. We’d endure a couple of tortuous hours trapped in the steamy laundromat while the smell of frying donuts and sweet frosting wafted in. Finally, just as the sun was coming up, Mom would press a spare coin into our little hands, and we’d run like the wind to choose a hot, fresh donut.
One Christmas morning, a Sears delivery truck pulled up in front of our house to bring us a brand-new washer and dryer. Dad, fearing he’d be stuck with a bill he didn’t incur, tried to talk the guy out of leaving them. But the machines, decked with oversized red bows and a Christmas card from an anonymous gift giver, were definitely intended “For the Tanner Family.” Someone obviously took pity on my mother. Although her energy and ability to work hard was unmatched, some generous observer decided it was high time she get her own washer and dryer.
However, those new amenities didn't changed Mom’s laundry routine too much, at least at first. Of course, she must have been glad to be able to toss in a load of this and that, especially when a child forgot to wash his gym clothes over the weekend or another ran out of her meager supply of underwear or socks, but for several more years Mom continued dragging us and the dirty clothes to the laundromat a couple times a week. She was an efficiency expert and couldn’t be bothered doing one load at a time.
I'm the twelfth of 13 children. I was born into a poor family rich in blessings. We lived in South Pasadena, California on top of a hill in a big house we called Tanner Manor. These are my stories of growing up there.