Child’s Play

Written by Hollye Dexter

(remember how exciting it was to hear the ice cream man coming down the street?)

Sometimes it feels like life is a mean big brother twisting our arms behind our backs until we say Uncle. That’s how this whole year has been – just one financial disaster after the next, requiring every cent we could scrounge up until there was nothing left. And we might have still been okay, if Troy’s employer (and friend) hadn’t died in July. As of that moment, work has dwindled away. But the bills and the hard breaks keep on comin’.
On top of everything, a couple days ago our washing machine broke, and yesterday the repairman told us She’s a goner. Meanwhile, we have a family of six living here (one of them being an infant- need I say more!), and mountains of dirty laundry. MOUNTAINS. And in the heatwave, it was starting to get smelly.
So last night my husband and I had a date at the Laundromat. Troy was depressed, loading laundry into the car. He didn’t want me to come, wanted to protect me from the reality of our current situation. But I said “We’re sticking together. Anyway, Evan will love it.”
Just to depress Troy even further, the Laundromat is sandwiched between a seedy liquor store and the Candy Cat strip club. There were sketchy characters hanging out in the parking lot, looking like the cast of a David Lynch film. And add to that, it was still 100 degrees at night, humid, and no air conditioning. So… imagine Tennessee Williams meets David Lynch. At the Laundromat.
But Evan didn’t know any of that. For a five year old, the Laundromat is an arcade. He was thrilled putting dollars in the change machine to watch the coins come clink, clink, clinking out the bottom. He got to throw the clothes in the front loading washers, put the quarters in, press the buttons and watch our clothes tumble in the soapy water. He ran from washer to washer, delighted to see the different stages: the spinning, the tumbling, the suds. His enthusiasm even brought a tired smile to a few of the other sweaty Laundromat patrons. He made friends with other children whose exhausted parents toiled away. The Thai man who ran the seedy liquor store made origami for him and told him stories, then gave me his home remedy for Evan’s cough (crushed chili peppers).
In two hours we had completed ten loads of laundry, and as we headed home exhausted, our hair drenched with sweat, we were all quiet in the car. Evan no doubt was replaying the scene- remembering the suds and the tumbling, the quarters spilling out of the change machine. I flashed back to 1995 – the year after our house burned down and we were bankrupted. Both Troy’s recording studio and my clothing business burned with the house- so we lost our home and our jobs in one night. We were so damn broke, just busting our asses to dig ourselves out of a hole. God those were hard times. Our son Taylor and daughter Cristen were just little kids then, and we tried to provide them with as normal a childhood as possible. When our utilities were cut off, we set up a tent in the backyard and went camping. We made smores and slept under the stars. The kids thought it was great fun. When we couldn’t afford groceries, I made pancakes for dinner- we called it crazy-mixed-up-backward day. They loved that. When our car broke down, Taylor was thrilled to take a bus ride with his dad. At only five years old, it was a real highlight for him.
And here we are today, hard times all over again. I guess its human nature to see the negative in everything, to get caught up in our fear. But having a child forces you to see things differently. Every situation is new and exciting for them. God I can remember how it felt just hearing the tinny recording of the ice cream truck. That’s what I’ve lost as an adult, feeling enthusiasm for life rather than just trudging through it. I forget that life is an adventure- all of it, the good and bad.
Crappy times like these are going to happen to us all at some time or another, so why do I get so depressed about it? These days will pass, just like they have before. Better days surely lie ahead. In the meantime, who says I can’t enjoy life anyway, and have fun in a sweaty laundromat? And I must have lost three or four pounds of water weight last night. Some people pay good money for that. Okay, let’s pretend I was at a spa, and today I feel deliciously relaxed and svelte.
Oh to be a child again, and delight in life no matter what comes. I want to recapture that spirit. I had it once. I can find it again, right?
Here is my challenge to myself today – to look at life with childlike wonder, to have no preconceived notions of good or bad, to enjoy the ride…at least for one day, and see what happens.

Anyone want to join me?

You May Also Like…

You Listened

How many times had you crept into their rooms at night and pressed your face against them to hear the soft hiss of...

Read More

Meeting my Muslim Neighbors

Islamic Society of West Valley/ Inter-faith dinnerLast week, my eleven-year old son Evan confided in me that he’s been...

Read More

We Gave Our Son a Stranger Things Birthday Party (and it was awesome!)

Evan, 10 years old,  just started middle school. It's been tough for him because he's amongst the youngest and...

Read More


  1. pam

    This has me sitting here smiling as tears stream down my face. Wouldn't it be a much brighter place if we could all see times like these through a childs eyes. There are better times ahead…I just know it. Might be the bright eyed optimist in me…but I have a good feeling about you kids ; )

  2. Anonymous

    Wow. You are amazing and I love how your truly turn lemons into lemonade. Your spirit rises above all else.

  3. Hollye Dexter

    Pam- you teach me how to be an optimist.
    Madge- lemonade with vodka, and xanax…..ha ha ha…..

  4. Unknown

    i remember when Beth & I would have to go to the laudromat when we lived in our one bedroom apt in Hollywood. we'd make a great day out of it. it was sandwiched between a liquor store (i think thats always a given) and California Chix Cafe. it was our time to be together, to get the laundry done (which felt SOOOO good) AND have a good dinner while the clothes were drying. i actually miss those times when it was just us, not having so much responsibility and bills and just enjoying each other. there are always going to be tough times, but its how you deal with it and finding the joy and laughter within it. you guys are always gonna get through it, too much love not to. xoxoxoxo

  5. Anonymous

    Might I ask why you son and his wife and baby didn't do their share with you? A mother's and mother-in-laws is never done. Maybe they should do their own. 🙂

  6. Hollye Dexter

    Madge- they weren't home, but they get to do the next round. : )

  7. Anonymous

    I'm in!

    Olivia loved the laundry mat too when we went through this same scenario recently. In fact, she still asks when can we go to the laundry mat again!

    Remind me to turn you on to my favorite laundry mat just over the canyon in Slimey Valley … it ain't swanky, and it's also next to a liquor store(hey, I'm beginning to see a pattern here as I think of the other laundry mats I know of ALL next to liquor stores … hmmm …) but, I dunno, it feels safe and comfortable and they almost always have an employee on hand to help you with any issues.

    Lovie love, Cindy

  8. Unknown

    Keep your chin up – you're a survivor, and you do it with beauty, grace, and overflowing love. You are so right about childlike wonder and enjoying the ride. You made me remember our first camping trip when our Evan was about the same age as your Evan. Tom isn't much of a camper, and was having a very frustrating time trying to shower in a crappy coin shower with Evan and most everything going wrong. He said he was swearing under his breath and getting really pissed off at the situation when Evan looked up at him and said, "Oh Dad, isn't camping great!!" Seeing it through Evan's eyes changed everything.

  9. Hollye Dexter

    Okay Erin and Cindy….next time I go to the laundromat you two are keeping me company, since it's so fun, and we're bringing Margaritas.
    Diane- Evans are the best , aren't they? If only I could see the whole world through his eyes- what an E-ticket ride it would be!

  10. Deb and Barbara

    Hollye, Hollye, Hollye! I have been sooooo crazy-busy didn't have a sec to sit and read blogs. I missed your voice (and would loooove to chat — when can we??). This is such a great story, except it's not a story, it's real life, and you are turning each page with love and wonder. Which is so great and important.

    And your re-telling of your tales makes for just EXCELLENT reading, my future-published friend.

    PS maybe one day Deb will blog about how she and Colin had to sell their CD collection to have enough dough to buy KD back when their son was a baby. Heartbreakingly funny!

    xo B


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *