Front loading washers have what I consider a hideous secret flaw. I noticed it a few weeks after the new washer was installed. That was a headache story on its own so I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say that when the project was finally done it was a huge relief. I swear I could look in the direction of that new washing machine and see a beam of light descended upon it straight from the heavens. I mean, I know God doesn’t grant us washing machines per se, but still, it came just in the nick of time. The laundry was becoming insurmountable. Hallelujah.
A few weeks after it was installed and used with my usual consistency, which is always, every day, several loads a day– big family, growing boys, and all that– I noticed the grime on the inside of the machine. It resided there on the rubber gasket that ran around the tub, just inside the door. I tried to wipe it away and it came off, a little. I got distracted, like you know I do, and left it alone. About a month after that we were gone for vacation. On our return, I open the door to have it receive the first load of post vacay washing and the smell nearly knocked me to the floor. Mildew grew in that tub while we basked on the beach. Nice.
After a few bouts with bleach and tub cleaner and what have you, the smell went away but the stains remained. I made an effort to “keep the door open to the machine when not in use” as was suggested in the literature that accompanied the washer but I got distracted, like you know I do– or someone came along and helpfully would close it or I’d go for few days without a break in laundry because, as noted above, I do a lot of laundry.
Laundry is such an ever-present action that when people I meet for the first time ask me what I “do” I just say, “Laundry. I do a lot of laundry.”
The next suggestion from the manufacturer was to “wipe the inside gaskets after use” which sounds reasonable except that I’ve got no room in my daily task managing to add in one more thing. I mean it, one more thing and I am a woman over the edge. Nobody likes that. Then again, nobody likes mildew smelling clothes either.
Here’s the thing that comes to me as I kneel today to clean that tub, one more time, with bleach then hydrogen peroxide. I think about this machine so handy, so expensive. I think about that beam of light on this thing that is meant to make my life easier, as if what I need most is to make my life easier still. I kneel on the floor by that tub, scrubbing these black marks, sanitizing the stink and it occurs to me that this basic care here, while a major pain, is part of the package. If I choose this method of making clean clothing then I have to sign on for the care too.
And I think about the care of the soul– in particular, the work of prayer, and the practice of Liturgy. I shut myself off, walk away from the vigilance required to keep the works in good shape, the black grows there, it permeates the porous places, sinking in and taking hold. It’s a frightening thought to have while cleaning. I’m not afraid of the mold and the mildew. I’ll get my hands dirty when the stink is overwhelming or the black has grown too much even for me to handle. And yet, there is some part of me that knows that consistency and regular care is the better plan.
The machine has a flaw, most front loading machines have it. I know this because the Internet said so, because the manufacturer addresses it and gives suggestions to overcome it. I have it too, here in me, at the edges where I am sealed. It threatens to creep further, to leak into other areas of me, to get out of hand more quickly than I expect. But light kills the black stuff and taking the time to pay attention to the inner workings keeps it at bay. Prayer and practice and liturgy go a long way for this soul care. I know this now. It’s still a choice I have to make every day– prayer and practice and liturgy and laundry– I know the prescription. I know the cure.