Every household has its mysteries. In our eight-person household (which includes Don and me —the so-called adults—the four teens and two toddlers), the mystery at the moment involved towels. And, the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough.
We have tons of towels. I know this because I bought them. I know this because of what happens when I wash every towel we own on my Saturday big laundry day. The toddlers (ages 16 months and three years old) use them as a giant playground. They both tunnel into the pile, made from throwing all the towels into the floor when my attention is on something else. I usually find them sitting in a warm fluffy towel hut, giggling quietly. Finding them is part of the game. The game? Toddlers under the pile of towels, of course.
I digress. My point is we have an abundance of towels. We have them in bath towel length, beach towels, wash rags, dish towels, and dust cloths. But never enough when we need them, and I have no idea where they go.
By the time I go to take a shower any night during the week, the towels are all gone. The only thing left in the linen cabinet is usually our oldest washcloth which is purple, stringy, and full of holes. It has barely any cloth surface area to hold soap for a good scrub-down. In reality, all the towels are usually gone 24 hours after my weekly laundering.
Don usually finds himself stuck without a towel, on weeknights too. He often complains of never having a towel after his shower. I would tell him that I am washing a load and he would have to wait. He didn’t see why we had to wash a load before even thinking of heading toward the tub/shower. I didn’t understand it either. He also didn’t use the raggedy purple towel, out of principal. (Although he does use washcloths. FRom recent Twitter feuds, I am guessing that he is one of few white guys who does? My mom never let us take a bath without one, and hers seemed scratchy enough to rub the melanin off in one bath session.
Like Don, I could almost never catch a towel in that cabinet when I needed it. I also usually had to slip into the shower when the toddlers were distracted or sleeping. So, there was often not enough forethought, or time, to wash and dry a load. This always led to drying my body off with t-shirts and other cloth-like (not-towel), materials. (By the way, receiving blankets work very well.)
So, one week I decided to figure out where they all went. On a Tuesday, midweek, to really get a good look at the live usage, I washed and dried all the towels. They were in the cabinet and waiting. There had to be more than 30 towels! I was waiting too, determined to figure out where the hell these towels were going so fast.
What follows are the notes to my investigation.
11:05 PM Monday, Nearly Lunchtime
The 3-year-old comes running down the stairs in his Green Lantern undies, his daddy’s JB Hunt cap, two different Christmas socks on his hands, and a Superman beach towel around his neck. He stands legs apart after pulling on in his Batman rain boots and is positioned squarely in front of me. His mismatched sock-covered hands are on his waist where his Mickey Mouse tool belt drooped low on his hips.
“I’m Bob the plumber, ma’am. Where’s the leak?” says this character before me.
“Where did you get this towel?” Trying not to be derailed by his cuteness.
“Um I don’t know,” he says. “Bob” then shrugs his shoulders and goes tearing off for the playroom (a.k.a. my former office). I manage the snag the towel off him before he got away.
12:18 PM After Lunch
I go upstairs to put the Superman beach towel back in the cabinet. In the hall leading to the bathroom, I find my oldest daughter (20 years old and yes, still living at home) with a laundry basket picking up towels from the floor. She had her “stank” face on the whole time.
“You don’t want to be up here yet,” she says never breaking to look up from her task.
“What happened?!” I ask anyway.
“Your son,” she began.
“This one?” I hold up the pseudo-cape.
“And his dog.” She points to the pile in her basket which is clearly wet. I strain my allergy-embattled nostrils to pick up a hint of puppy pee—probably from our mastiff puppy Penny.
She picks up the tinkle towels, which were about a good third of my stash, and takes them to the laundry room. Fortunately, the towels had protected the carpet, this time.
3:10 PM After School
The toddlers get up from their nap and so do the dogs. I tell my 13-year-old son to take the puppies for a walk. In addition to Penny, we have a miniature Dachshund named Angus. They are quite THE pair. My son, however, takes his ever-loving time suiting up for the walk. Penny can’t wait, sprinkling the downstairs bathroom floor, which is bare of the puppy pads meant to protect my tile from the pee shower. The last person to clean up after the dogs didn’t replace the pads—as usual.
I change up the chores quick, telling my slowpoke son to clean up the mess and his 16-year-old sister to take the pups out. By the time I have the toddlers settled, I check on the pee scene to see five fresh towels covering the bathroom floor. He said they were soaking up the mess. I doubt he had any plan of what to do next. (I say this because it was not the first time I found the bathroom floor in this state. The assumption, of course, is that I will clean it up). I hand him a mop, make some bleachy mop water, and I tell him to get to work. The towels go down to the laundry for sanitizing. This sounds like a smoother process than it was in reality because 13-year-olds are also know-it-alls. Mine is no exception.
Here’s part of the conversation.
Me: Why? (Gesturing to the floor covered in pee and my once clean towels.)
Him: It’s faster.
Me: We have mops and paper towels. Why?
Him: I cleaned it up?
Me: With our towels? That are still on the floor…
Me: Boy…just…move… (I mumble all sorts of things as I push past him to make up that bucket of mop water.)
Fortunately, I regain my language abilities to give him yet another tutorial on how to use CLEANING PRODUCTS to clean up messes and not our towels—which are strictly for washing things and drying bodies.
I’m assured myself that he forgot everything I said the moment he was done.
6:43 PM After Dinner
The 13-year-old has kitchen duty. We have yet another talk about the bath towels he is using to dry the dishes instead of the dish towels. I try not to kill him when he responds—dryly, I might add—”you said ALL the towels were for drying.”
7:34 PM Getting Ready for Bed
I remember to check on my towel stash in the cabinet when I hear water running from the upstairs bathroom. Someone is running a bath. I count eight towels in there. Good. Don and I will have more than enough for our after-bathing dry-off in the plush fluffiness. Smiling, I walk back downstairs.
9:00 PM Bedtime (or an Hour into Bedtime, Anyway)
I hear the bellow of, “Where are all the fucking towels!” which reverberates throughout the house as I am putting the toddlers down. This chore takes about an hour, so Don gets the first shower. Surprised by his outburst, I go to the bathroom to see that the shelves are completely empty. He’s holding the raggedy purple washcloth and looking at me puzzled. He’s also repeating, “you said there were towels.” I think his voice is getting closer to falsetto with every repetition.
“Stop talking,” I say, “and get in the shower.” I went to go track down my last towels of the day.
I check the 13-year-old’s room and quickly shut the door so that the stench I encounter does not enter into family space. I make a note to fumigate the place tomorrow. I move to the room shared by my 16 and 18-year-old daughters. There, I find my towels. They are all over the room. Piled in a heap on the floor, draped on the desk chair, and one each is laying over both girls’ shoulders. I don’t even have to ask what happened. The older one is busy detangling, moisturizing, and coaxing her natural curls into Bantu knots. The younger one is blow drying and styling.
It is hair night for our girls. And, hair night when your curls are as dense and coiled as theirs meant lots of towel support.
Instead of even trying to explain hair night to my husband, I go down to the laundry to retrieve a towel from the dryer. Remember the ones Penny peed on earlier—they are lavender fresh now! Don is waiting, (not in the shower). He sees the towel and is stunned by what has to be magic at this point. His face glows as I sink the fluffy warmth into his hands. I leave him as the shower turns on…Do I hear singing?
11:05 PM My Turn
Here I soak in my bath, thinking of my towel experiment. Short of selling the toddlers (and probably the dogs too), shaving the girls, and dropping my teen son off with nice farm people in the countryside, there was not a whole lot I could do to fix my problem.
It seems that our problem with towels is just life and the stuff that happens when you have a lot of people and pets in a limited space. The problem would get better when the dogs were trained, but then I sure something else will find its way into my cabinet to steal away my towels. At this point, I could complain, or give my attention to helping “Bob the Plumber” find his leak or catching up on some comics with my 13-year-old. Honestly, this day only taught me that my problem with towels was not really a problem at all.
The next day, I decided to go out to buy more towels and to throw the raggedy purple washcloth into the trash.