After a fun-filled week at the lake, my niece and I are spending several days at my mother’s house in Osceola (aka the Bat Cave). After a week at the lake, the dirty laundry is piled high. Lake dirty. Sandy and damp and pre-mildewy. Sunday night after sorting everything into giant mounds, we began the task of washing clothes.
Two hours later over take-out pizza, we came to the sober realization the dryer wasn’t working properly – heating but not tumbling, the clothes steamy but still wet. The dryer is ancient so it was no wonder. But could there be a worse time for a breakdown? After a week at the lake…
Monday morning sporting my cleanest dirty shirt and shorts, I loaded up two enormous overflowing baskets of clothes and set out to find a laundromat in Osceola. It’s been years since I’ve been to a laundromat. College days maybe?
I found one fairly easily. Unloading the baskets, I was already glowing from the early morning humidity. Trying to remain vigilant and acutely aware that the town’s landscape has changed drastically from my day, I had one of those moments. Those life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments. It happened when I realized the laundromat was wedged between the former Jr Food Mart we frequented as teenagers and the dilapidated abandoned Sonic we circled on summer nights in high school. I saw my younger self parked in my yellow Corvette, carefree, laughing and flirting with cute Osceola boys. Eating a #2 with tots before irritable bowel syndrome clamped my stomach like a vise. Back when Momma’s dryer was new.
Thirty-three years later at 7:15 a.m., I am unshowered and dragging smelly clothes baskets from my hail-ridden vehicle into the sauna-like laundromat. The super cool new Sonic sits on the edge of town holding no memories for me. My stomach is bloated from eating too much gluten…
Inside, there was only one patron. Chatty Cathy. With several machines already humming and a load folded on the wooden table, she had obviously been there a while. We became instant friends bonded by no home appliances and reeking clothing. Taking me under her tatted wing she pointed out the best washing machines and which specific dryers to avoid. I became her project.
Chatty Cathy: None of them dryers work very good. They only cost fifty cents but that won’t do nothing. You’ll be feeding quarters in all mornin’.
Sweaty Talya: (oh goodie.) Ok well I have a roll of quarters and one load is already partially dry so maybe it won’t be so bad.
Chatty Cathy: Nope. You’ll be needin all them quarters.
Sweaty Talya: (why oh why did I tell her about my whole roll of quarters? Stupid….)
Chatty Cathy: I only do laundry onct a month. That’s today.
Sweaty Talya: Once a month? Wow, you must have a lot of laundry.
Chatty Cathy: You know it girl. You from Texas? (she could read. I was wearing my Dallas Mavericks t-shirt for the third day in a row.)
Sweaty Talya: Yes, Dallas.
Chatty Cathy: DAL-LAS!!! Ya-hoo!!!(very very excited) Never been there but I was born in El Paso.
Sweaty Talya: Oh yeah? I’ve been there a few times.
Chatty Cathy: I don’t remember it. Moved when I was 3. Live in Luxora now. (hyena laughing here….)
Sweaty Talya: Oh. Well I’m actually from Osceola. Just visiting my mom.
Chatty Cathy: Where’s she live?
Sweaty Talya: (oh like I’m gonna tell you.) Just down the road. Not far.
Chatty Cathy: Well that’s good.
Sweaty Talya: Did you graduate from Luxora High School? (did she graduate? please, please don’t say Rivercrest…)
Chatty Cathy: Nope. Caraway High School. Lived in Caraway then. (Lighting up a cigarette.)
Sweaty Talya: What year?
Chatty Cathy: 1980.
Sweaty Talya: (omg.) Really? Me too. (seriously? we are the same age???)
Chatty Cathy: WE DONE TURNED 50 THIS YEAR! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?? (more hyena laughing with arms swinging overhead like doing the wave at a football game…)
Sweaty Talya: (hell) No I cannot. (I was shocked.)
Chatty Cathy: You don’t mind if I smoke do you, I should of axed you already.
Sweaty Talya: Of course not. (totally adding to the ambiance.)
I considered having a cigarette too at this point… but I remembered I don’t smoke.
Two and a half scorching hot hours later, I finished the laundry, drove straight to the super new Sonic for a Route 44 iced tea, very grateful for air conditioning and excellent dental care. Thankful for my life.
I suppose Chatty Cathy went back to Luxora.
If Heaven Ain’t A lot Like Dixie, Hank Williams, Jr.