Kudos for Neighbors North, The Cinderblocks

Emma’s Sweater-washing Protocols–newer and sharper


Sweater, cardigan.

(In a small victory against SEmRo (Send Emma to Her Room), Emma’s guardian and sometime-mentor Kathy McMullen was able to thwart SEmRo and read this newer, sharper version of the “Protocols” at last night’s It’s About Time at Ballard Public Library.)

One might think Emma was doing something illegal the morning she sets out to wash her prized red cardigan.  Knit by Grandma Wahnknecht, the cardigan passed among several cousins until at last falling into Emma’s hands.  Of course Emma also has the Navy blue cardigan, but that is part of her school uniform and hardly prized.

Emma goes about the sweater-washing stealthily and quietly.  Mouse-like.  She closes the bathroom door and considers the soap question.  Dial? Ivory? She reaches boldly for the Head and Shoulders, crossing her fingers it won’t tinge the cardigan blue.  The sink fills with sudsy lukewarm water.  Mom has fortified her with a modicum of sweater-washing know-how and Emma knows proper water temperature is paramount, although she is in the dark as to why.  That is typical. She is often told to do something a particular way but far less often told why.

She scrubs under the arms; the cuffs and elbows.  She rubs Dial to the spot where spaghetti sauce dropped.  She can smell the dirt coming free and a sheepy, meadowy smell.

After washing and rinsing, she scoops the sweater into a ball and presses the ball between her palms.  Hard.  Water streams between her fingers.  She is careful not to twist.  Twisting may cause the sleeves to lengthen or the body to widen or some other sweater malformity. Next she rolls the sweater in a bath towel, and squeezes out remaining water.

Rolling the sweater in additional towels would facilitate drying, but is nothing Emma will countenance.  Using more than one towel would be wasteful.

She considers the drying question next.  Atop the dryer or washing machine would be ideal, but Mom commandeers those spots.  She could ask, but then Mom will sigh and there will be guilt for further complicating Mom’s day.  Or Mom might discover Emma has done the sweater-washing improperly.  Maybe she used soap meant for company.  Maybe she rolled the sweater in a towel not meant for that.  Maybe she left a puddle of water.  Or she wiped up the puddle but used the wrong rag or towel.

She lays her sweater on her bed.  She fails to notice the light piercing the gap between the curtains, striking diagonally down the cardigan’s front.

At bedtime, she re-enters her room and discovers her sweater streaked with pink.  She pushes the sweater aside and crawls into the soggy bed.  She rolls about, seeking a dry spot, shedding tears.  A voice disturbs her crying. Jesus’? Mary’s? “Overcome the glum. Crying for cardigan dumb,” the voice commands.

She wipes her eyes and whispers “thank you,” into the dark.

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