Last weekend our dryer quit working, so, as it was raining (and therefore I couldn’t use the laundry line), I had to take my wet laundry to the laundromat to finish.
When I was in college, I used my laundromat a lot, so I know that there’s a whole lotta waiting involved at a laundromat. These days most people look at their phones while they wait.
But not me. Oh no!
I brought doll clothes to work on.
My niece, Emily, has a birthday right around the corner, and when I saw her at Christmas, she asked me if I’d make her some doll clothes for her Mini Elsa and Mini Anna toddler dolls, from Disney’s Frozen.
So of course, I brought along a little pink felt jacket and some embroidery floss, to work on adding fancy flowers along the edges of this tiny jacket.
I worked silently, embroidering my little doll coat, while I waited for my laundry to finish.
A family came in — two young parents and a little boy of maybe five or six years old — and did their laundry directly across the room from me.
The young parents were glued to their phones, scrolling through whatever seemed to entertain them.
The little boy had no phone. In fact, he was going around from one washing machine to the next, trying to read the signs.
“Mom,” he said, “what does ‘C-H-A-N-G-E’ spell?”
Both parents ignored him and continued to scroll through stuff on their phones.
I put down my embroidery and watched them for a moment.
“Mom,” the little boy said again, “you can sound it out. What does ‘C-H-A-N-G-E’ make? What word is that?”
Once again, the little boy was ignored.
My heart was breaking for this kid. How hard is it to put your phone down and give a little boy a moment of your time?
He really wanted to learn to read, but his parents were in La-La-Land.
Now, I started this blog post telling you about Emily, my niece.
Emily’s mommy is my 12-years-younger sister, Sarah. And when I was in college — when I did all my laundry at the laundromat — a tragedy happened in our family. Because of this tragedy, Sarah had to come live with me, in a tiny studio apartment, in Pullman, Washington, where I attended Washington State University.
It was hard being a single parent to my younger sister, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d take her in, and raise her, without a second thought.
For my birthday, one year, my now adult sister, Sarah, gave me this cute little notebook, which has been made out of an old Scrabble game board:
I’m going to share something very personal and private, and I hope it doesn’t come across as vain or judgmental. But here’s what my sister wrote inside that Scrabble journal:
This little journal is one of the most precious objects I own. It’s a memory my sister and I share, and it says a lot about who we are, and how much we struggled to get where we are today.
My sister, like me, works in education. But it wasn’t easy for either of us to get through college — nor was it easy for our brother, who is in-between us in age.
However someone — probably our mother — took the time to teach us each to read, and I’m deeply grateful for that.
Now back to the present day.
I couldn’t walk away from that little boy in the laundromat who was trying so hard to learn to read. So when my laundry was dry, I went across the street, bought a coloring book about sharks (one that had easy-to-read words and crayons too), and I took it back to the laundromat.
By the time I returned from the store, the little boy had gotten in trouble and was in tears. Kids tend to get in trouble when they desperately need attention and their parents are ignoring them, so that was no surprise.
I handed him the shark coloring book and said, “You seem to be interested in reading. Please keep practicing how to read with this coloring book. Don’t just color the pictures, but read the words too.”
His parents were so surprised!
I told them, “I’m a school librarian, and I could see that he really wanted to learn to read.”
No judgement. No condemnation. Just an observation.
I hope the parents took a few minutes out of their day to sit and help the little boy learn to read.
And that’s my laundromat story.
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