When I was little, I used to go with my mom to the laundry mat. Since we were a family of five, we spent a lot of time there and to this day I can remember the different smells of the place and what everything looked like.
At the end of a row of machines there was always a little space between one and the wall. I remember looking through it sometimes and seeing an abandoned book; usually one of the seven Harry Potter books or an assortment of romance novels, always lightly covered in dust. I was little so admittedly, I was a bit more preoccupied by the possibility of finding some lost coins than I was by the books.
Like many places of business in the early 2000s the laundry mat was also the home to several coin operated video games and gumball/treasure machines. One of my favorites was a machine where for a quarter you received a little plastic container with a ring inside. I used to beg my mom for quarters and I had an awesome collection of rings!
Towards the entrance, there was a little nook where I would sometimes sit during the stifling hot days. I have always had a really strong memory of sitting in the corner across from the service desk and a few feet away from the door. That door afforded me brief moments of detergent-free air from when a gust of wind would break. It’s there that I remember sitting with “A Tale Of Despereaux” by Kate Dicamillo, how I loved that book. It was such a pretty book; hardcover, with the fancy page edges, and an illustration of a mouse with a sewing needle tied around its neck. Most importantly, I remember reading pretty much the whole thing while my mom did laundry and being fully immersed in that world.
The laundry mat also had its bad parts. As mentioned it smelled, and it was dirty. All of the chairs were stained and looked as if they were the homes of little bug families. There was this one in particular that sagged in the middle so badly that I always thought I would fall through. The owners also probably never vacuumed the rug that covered the little sitting area, where customers could sit and watch T.V. while waiting for the clothes to finish being washed/dried. There was also a small bathroom located there and that was truly the cause of nightmares for little K.D., so gross in fact that I refuse to write about it.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Since that time, my family has moved into a house with our own washer and dryer set. There was no longer any reason for us to drive to the laundry mat on a weekly basis. Recently, however, my mom had to wash some chair cushions that wouldn’t fit in our machines. Together, we took a ride to the laundry mat and down memory lane.
Since the last time I have been there, there has been a change in ownership and it’s gone under a lot of renovations. The very first thing I noticed when I walked in was the nook that I used to read in, or more accurately the lack-thereof. The basic infrastructure of the place had been changed. Also noticeably absent were the sitting area, the sagging, stained chairs, and the little machines where I would get my rings. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being shaken up by what I saw, even a little angry. This laundry mat was no longer the place it once was.
All of the changes, in retrospect, were great changes. The place had (desperately) needed a face-lift but still, the little girl inside of me yearned for that nook and for the familiar.
Sometimes, I guess it’s just difficult to realize that things change and you have to let go. I always thought the laundry mat would be the same because for my entire childhood it was but that’s not how things work. I am grateful that although it is different, it’s still there.
This experience has made me wonder about what other places from my childhood have changed and how I’d feel about them now. Have you ever gone back to a place you frequented a lot as a child? Was it different and if so, how did it affect you?