When I was 8 my whole family got into a car accident - except for me. I was spending the night at my cousin's house and I remember driving by the crushed white van with the light post slung across its midsection and laughing. "Look at that funny car," I told my aunt, not knowing my mom and siblings were involved.
My mom was thrown from the van and a light post landed on her leg. She was 7 months pregnant at the time and trapped. They were all rescued and sent to the hospital. My step dad and sisters were out in a couple of days but my mom stayed in nearly two weeks. Her leg was broken and they had to put a pin in. She'd also crushed her ribs and there were some organs they worried over. But the baby at least was safe.
I'd already become the 'responsible kid'. My older sister had moved out and I was next in line. During my moms hospital stay and after she came home, I learned to cook egg sandwiches, grilled cheese, canned soup, etc. I also learned to clean house, wash dishes, and do other household chairs as my mom wasn't able to stand and my stepfather was always working.
But the thing I remember most wadi the shopping and the laundry.
My younger sister Niki and I were put in charge of both.
The shopping required us to get 50 dollars a week from my mom. My step father was a waiter at the time and the 50 bucks was tough to part with. Niki and I would take the money and then Las Vegas intersection to the grocery store. We had our list (which we helped write) and we picked out our food. We learned to comparison shop (50 dollars didn't get you much) and look for sales. We always ended in the cereal section where Niki and I would debate for many minutes on which one to get for the week. Sugar was important. Prizes, more so. Deciding who would get the prize would be determined later. We wheeled the full grocery cart back home and kept the cart there, because that next day we would fill it (with laundry) and used it again.
We didn't have laundry baskets in my house. My mother denoted an entire close to the care of dirty laundry. With five in the household (six after my brother was born) the clothes accumulated quickly and once or twice a month Niki and I would spend a Saturday morning sorting them out between colors and whites, bundle them up in garbage bags, and wheel them to the laundromat across that same busy intersection. We'd then spend the rest of our day tending laundry (buying soap, washing, drying, fighting others over machines, folding). Niki sang songs around the laundromat, twirling and dancing, while I usually sat there with a notebook in hand writing stories or doing homework, or sometimes reading.
When the ordeal was over we'd cart the entire thing back home to begin the cycle anew.
Sometimes our laundry closet pile grew half as tall as I was and required two carts. Once, it was so large, that I left a runaway note, then hid in the laundry for 4 hours while they looked for me.
I bring all this up because I'm in bed now, staring at the pile of dirty clothes next to me, nowhere near my hamper. I wonder how many quirks and neurosis I've carried over. I hate to do laundry, even though we have a great machine in our garage. And, unlike a lot of women I know, I hate to go grocery shopping, even though my husband helps and we have more than a 50 dollar budget that is not divided between 5 people.