It was perhaps the 10th chore of the day in a long list of things that had to get done: the laundry. It had piled up yet again despite the fact that I had already done three loads that week. High on stress and low on energy, I reluctantly lugged the overflowing basket into the basement, annoyed at having to repeat this task, frustrated because as I was physically placing the clothes into the washer, I was mentally ticking off all the things that still had to be finished in the basement. I was aggravated that it was still in recovery mode.
In the two years since Hurricane Sandy, the basement has undergone a massive shift. Once finished with wooden doors that opened up to the washer and dryer, and dry, unfettered walls, our basement instantly became an indoor ocean when the water from the bay crashed open our back door and flooded into the house.
Little by little, we have attempted to get it back to what it used to be, but we’re still not quite there yet. The cleaning process alone took months, as did the replacement of all that was destroyed — appliances, walls, floors, and electric work. It seemed that just as we fixed one thing, we’d find another hidden area that had to be torn down, repaired, or replaced.
With the washer loaded, I stood under the bright light bulb hanging overhead and flashed back to the day we moved in, just over five years ago. After years of saving up while trying to raise three kids, we finally bought a house. It was a monumental moment for us. We started out as two naïve kids ourselves who had grown up together, married young, and did our best to make a good life. I was positively thrilled when we closed on the house. I recalled going straight from the closing to our new empty home, looking at the rooms, the front porch, the backyard, and letting the realization sink in that it was all ours. I also remembered doing laundry in our washer in the basement the first few days after we moved in, and being delighted doing it, telling my husband how truly awesome it was to do laundry right in our own house, without having to lug it to the laundry room in our old building that rarely had a spare washer available. I also pondered all the days post-Sandy when we’d have to go to the Laundromat (as did nearly everyone in our neighborhood) because our washers and dryers had been destroyed by the salt water.
Things had been more difficult and less comfortable than they are now. There were times we didn’t have a house, barely had an apartment, and then lost much of what we worked so hard to attain. That single thought broke me out of my self-absorbed frustration. Yes, I had and probably, hopefully, will always have a lot to do on any given day. I might not ever love doing laundry. Our basement might take another year to get back to the way we want it.
Through it all, the difficult to the mundane, we are making memories every day, marking our kids’ childhood with either negativity and frustration or peace and fun. And that’s what our kids remember. I want to choose the latter always, but some days are more difficult than others.