I want to talk about towels





I haven't been here in ages. I could talk about the progress on our house, or about the scorching heat followed by fantastic rain last week (followed by more heat), or about swimming and other summer niceties, or about the nasty summer colds four out of five members of our house currently have, or the fact that my husband is out of town and starts work on Monday (8-hour-a-day band camp until school starts in August, which really won't be eight hours a day because of set-up, clean-up, drive time, questions, paperwork, phone calls....), and how we've discussed before that his return to work at the end of the summer (now so much earlier due to marching band and an earlier start date at his new school) gets me down every year. 

But I really want to talk about towels. I don't know why, but I just want to.

I think proper beach towels are an absolutely necessary part of life. Maybe it's because we always had separate towels for swimming when I was growing up. But I really think they're a vital necessity.

My mom gave me a cooler, reusable picnic placesettings for four, some crystal candlesticks, and four beach towels for my bridal shower gift. It was actually a fantastic, creative, and useful gift (even though I hadn't registered for any of it -- bridal registries are another topic I can [and have] go on and on about, but I digress).

Two of the towels were ordinary large beach towels and two were super giant beach towels, like blankets, almost. We still use all of them. For a while, after we had kids, the big ones were Mama and Daddy's towels and the ordinary (but still big) beach towels were Elisabeth's (then Elisabeth and James's). Four years ago, we forgot to bring our beach towels with us on a trip, so my husband ran into Target and picked up four more. They must've been an anomaly because I have never before or since seen such large, heavyweight beach towels at Target. Since he got two identical blue ones and two identical green ones, they transitioned into our swimming lesson towels for the next few years, which were the key years in developing my obsessive swimming bag ritual. The kids would use two matching green towels one day, and two matching blue towels the next, all summer, ad nauseum. I washed the towels every night and folded them, ready for the alternating days. 


Last year, we lost one of these towels and Fiona really needed to be worked into the mix, anyway, so I bought six great big beach towels on sale from Lands' End (which really has excellent sales, by the way. I have gotten $15 coats there, too, that would normally be five times that price). I still continue with the same ritual, with the older towels being used for Mama and Daddy, or for extras at swim meets.

Why did I feel like telling you all of this? Why did the silly details of my obsession with beach towels need to be my first post after such a long break?

Maybe it's because controlling the swimming bag, and keeping the towels completely orderly, is my way of having control amidst the chaos of summer, when everyone and everything seems to be exploding every which way, and which seems particularly important this summer, when we've gone through a lot of transition and haven't really settled into our new home.


Maybe it's because, like everybody, I want to be known and understood, and this crazy little habit of mine is a way for me to tell you something about me, about the quirky things that matter to me, in their small way.

And maybe it's because, like I wrote almost three years ago, this towel ritual of mine is love. It's one of the many small ways that I love my family. I feel like it's important to say that it's not just a way that I show my love to them, as if love is some intangible concept that requires a kind of external scaffold to make it present. I don't believe that, because I think love is an action. It's something we do. It's something we choose. We love our families, in all the ways we can, the best we can, for as long as we can. We mess up. We leave the dishes in the sink too long, we lose our temper over something stupid, we forget their piano lesson. But we keep on loving them, in all the small ways that are our ways.

Also, my family isn't even aware of my towel ritual, except in some peripheral way, because they always have towels in the bag. It's not like, "Thanks, Mama! Now I can see your love for me because you made sure there were towels in the bag!" This work and love of mothering goes unseen and unrecognized. Almost always by our children, and sometimes even by our spouses. There are so many days, my friends, when I would so love a gold star at the end of the day -- either because it was a really good day, or a really bad one. I would love some acknowledgement and appreciation. As I know would you. Sometimes, every once in a while, I get that. But mostly, I don't. Mostly, I keep on loving my family in my small ways, hoping that it's enough, that I'm enough, that it will all add up to something beautiful in the end. 

I want you to know, you who are reading this right now, that your quiet and hard work is something beautiful. That your silly little love rituals, whatever they are, are enough. That pleasure you take in them, the ways you love your family, the hardness of the everyday, these things matter. And they do add up to something extraordinary. No matter how flawed you are -- as a human being, as a parent -- what you are doing is valuable. 

And that's why I wanted to talk about towels today.