|Eric pushing little me around the house in a laundry basket. This is from the era in which they were actually nice to me.|
Many laundry baskets were employed in our house: Five people, three of whom were extremely spill and mustard-squirt prone, makes for a lot of dirty clothing that needs to be cleaned. We had a green square basket with leaf-type cut outs on the sides, a mustard yellow rectangular number (hello 1970s!) that had vertical-bar cutouts, and I think there may have been a white one in the mix among other lesser-loved baskets. We were partial to the green one and the yellow laundry totes, though. The green one was taller and able to hold more laundry (or more little sister depending on the situation), and the yellow one allowed the little sister to stretch out her legs a bit. You know, if you're into hanging out in laundry baskets, which this little sister very much happened to be.
I loved the laundry baskets, despite the fact that sometimes they were used against me. Actually, they were often used against me. More than once the green one was flipped upside down over top of me and became my foliage-themed prison. The yellow one was also an apt cage as Kenny and/or Eric sat on top of it, effectively locking me in. My only saving grace was the laundry baskets were not soundproof, so while the Twins could curb my spastic dancing or flights across the living room interrupting their TV viewing, they could not shut me up. Ever. My prison sentence was usually short lived, because let's face it, a little girl squawking for freedom at a very high pitch can only be tolerated for a very short period of time.
Why did I love the laundry baskets? I mean, really, why did I do anything when I was young? I was easily amused, oftentimes concussed, and definitely flat-out dumb. And because sometimes Kenny and Eric would offer me rides in them, and that was just plain fun; a game the three (or at least two) of us could enjoy. I would settle into the laundry basket, and if they were feeling especially kind or I was planning ahead, I'd get a folded blanket to line the bottom of the basket for the ensuing ride. It was a primitive form of shock absorption we liked to call IBS (Independent Butt Suspension). Didn't really soak up the rough jolts to the ol' spine, but really the ol' spine was pretty young and flexible then so I could take a lot of abuse and keep on rolling. My laundry basket rides often involved the two flights of stairs in our house. I had many brother-propelled rides down the stairs, and while that may sound sketchy, at least I had a plastic cage around me (which is safer than when they rolled me up into a human bowling ball and just threw me down the stairs all willy-nilly). I'd usually arrive at the bottom of the stairs in one piece, and then they'd commence pushing me around the first floor of the house in the basket. This garnered enough static electricity to give me a decent shock by the time we reached the kitchen. Fun!
The Twins recognition of the laundry basket as a form of devilry didn't end with the stairs (they were nothing if not overachievers in jackassery). Kenny and Eric started bringing me, in the laundry basket, outside where the confines of walls would not inhibit their rambunctious mischief. I remember Kenny tying a jump rope through one of the handle holes of the yellow basket, and then pulling me around the backyard. There was no butt buffer in the basket this time around, but I wasn't concerned because this jaunt started off as a leisurely tour of our property. The summer breeze, the sunshine, the green grass – it was all very enjoyable at this relaxing pace. But we know that's not where it ended.
Boys have a need for speed, and a thought process that doesn't register true "fun" until the half a second before someone gets hurt. Kenny picked up his pace, effectively ending my sightseeing tour as he launched me unwillingly and immediately into the "terror zone." On the first lap around the house, I was a bit petrified, but I must admit watching Kenny jog seemingly for my gain was enjoyable. My basket slid behind him, trying to find balance on the slick grass. I had no way of steering or balancing on my own. Kenny started to run faster, and as he trotted in front of the basket, the jump rope pulled taut and yanked me behind at the same pace. It was a bit herky-jerky at first because the basket slid on the grass a little quicker than Kenny was running, so sometimes I passed him a bit until he retook the lead and pulled me forward again.
This is how it went for a few minutes. I started to get dizzy by the time we rounded the house for the 24th time. Kenny was getting bored with the fact that he was exerting all this energy and no one had gotten hurt yet, so instead of running around the house in a linear pattern he started zigging and zagging, making my laundry basket lean on one edge. Things were getting unsteady, so naturally this egged Kenny on with the promise of chaos and injury. The more haphazard and unpredictable, the more fun (according to my brothers) we were having. I, on the other hand, was not so thrilled with this development. I was holding onto the lip of the basket on either side, trying to skooch my butt over to whatever side was lifting off the ground to replant it in the grass. I felt that either liftoff or getout was imminent.
Kenny ran as fast as he could, jerking me behind him violently. As we rounded the back corner of the house closest to our neighbor's house (within a few feet of their concrete steps and landing), things got dicey. The corner of the basket closest to our house lifted as Kenny shifted direction 90 degrees, and I could do nothing but fall over on my left side. Neither the basket nor the brother stopped. Kenny continued to run, the basket continued to slide on its side, and I was getting a close up of grass smacking me in the face as I lay on my side inside the laundry basket of doom. The slats in the side of the basket allowed all the rocks, grass, sticks, pine needles, and whatever else was in our yard smack me around as I rode sideways. Most of my weight was on my left shoulder, and in those few seconds of my toppled tour, I realized that, hey, this hurts. So I tucked, I rolled out, and I lay there on the grass, exasperated, and watched my brother peel out and whip the empty basket around the front corner of the house and disappear. I had grass stains on my purple sweatshirt. I had grass and pine needles in my hair. I had only the thought of retreating back inside the house and far away from the basket and the Kenny.
I dizzily wobbled my way back inside, where Kenny was already plopped down on the couch trying to catch his breath. He and Eric both laughed at me as I walked past them with my newly acquired hair "don't" and beat up sweatshirt. I didn't care. I was going to play with My Little Ponies.
When I got to my room, I surveyed the damage. My shoulder still hurt, but it wasn't bleeding so I considered the laundry basket excursion low on the totem pole of "worst case scenario" that was my young life.
The rest of my day was pretty uneventful. I played. I ate dinner. I talked my mom into letting me skip taking a bath since it was a Friday (though she did insist on brushing out my foliage-infused hair). I went to bed. The next morning I woke up, still in my comfy and beloved purple sweatshirt, and went to have breakfast. Mom was in the dining room with our neighbor, who came over on Saturday mornings for coffee and to get her hair done by my beauty-school-trained mother. I was always lurking, listening to them gossip about people around town and watch the rollers go in and out of the neighbor's hair. Their conversation stalled momentarily, and mom turned her attention toward me.
"Why don't you go change out of that dirty sweatshirt?" she asked.
"I can't," I stated plainly.
"What do you mean, you can't?"
"I can't get the sweatshirt off. It's stuck."
Mom stopped back-combing the neighbor's silvery-blonde hair.
"Huh? Is it too tight or something?" she asked.
"No, it's just stuck to my shoulder. It won't come off."
"It's stuck? What do you mean?"
"Well, Kenny pulled me around the house in the laundry basket and then I fell over and now my sweatshirt won't come off." I explained.
My mom stood there for a moment, absorbing the story that to most would be a disjointed bunch of nonsense words. Unfortunately for the both of us, it all made perfect sense to her.
The escapade in the yard apparently pulled a few layers of skin off my shoulder as I rode on it through the grass. Overnight, the patch of raw skin had leaked some sort of skin-regenerating ooze and fused the fleecy lining of my purple sweatshirt right into my wound. I could take the sweatshirt off 99 percent of the way, but that patch was holding a swatch of my sweatshirt hostage. I took off the sweatshirt for her to see the garment dangle from my shoulder.
My dear, sweet mother and the neighbor both looked concerned and mildly disgusted at the nasty peeled off patch of skin and the purple sweatshirt that was being incorporated into my DNA. They both surveyed the situation and after trying a warm soaked washcloth to loosen the scab that was devouring my shirt, they decided the only real way to remove it was to cut. My mom grabbed the kitchen scissors (probably a good call on not using her hair-cutting scissors in front of the neighbor) and carefully clipped away at the purple fuzz that was attached to me. I was extremely concerned about the wellbeing of my purple sweatshirt, but I was given the ultimatum that I could either wear the purple sweatshirt for the next three weeks straight as the scab healed, or she could take care of it right now. It wasn't really a choice for me to make. That sweatshirt was coming off.
My mom made a series of little snips, and soon the weight of the sweatshirt transferred from my shoulder to the floor. She did a good job; both child and sweatshirt were only mildly traumatized. I had purple fuzz in my shoulder, and the shoulder of the sweatshirt was a little thin on fleecy lining, but no holes. It took a few weeks, but eventually the scab healed and I no longer contained any sort of purple fuzz.
I should state for the record that this did not mark the end of my laundry basket riding career. It was the most eventful ride, though. I went on a few more rides, I'm sure getting bruised somewhere along the way, but never had any sort of clothing morph as a result. I consider that progress. Or luck.
I blame my current aversion to laundry on Kenny. Why? Because it's convenient and sounds better than just admitting I'm lazy. It's obviously his fault I can't sort whites, pre-treat stains, or fold stuff immediately upon removal from the dryer because of his penchant for hurtling his baby sister around in a death trap disguised as a meek laundry basket. Now if I could just conjure up memories of terror with other household items, maybe I could write off housework altogether.
Yesterday, as I was doing laundry against my better judgment, I walked into the laundry room and tried to kick the green laundry basket (different one – the original didn't survive the '80s). I missed the intended target and my little toe caught the edge of the door frame and bent back with a tiny little cracking noise. I am going to say that breaking my toe doing laundry was even more painful than the shoulder incident. My only regret is that Kenny lives 3,000 miles away and cannot be blamed for my trauma. I hate it when it's my own fault.