“That’ll have to be a Saturday project, honey,” she said through the doorway to her husband. For the past two years, her concrete-slab back porch has had the same stack of things: broken shelves full of bottles and broken toys, stacks of boxes, and baskets of laundry that seem to grow like plants. She has apologized three times now for the ‘clutter.’ Although she seems embarrassed for the mess, she is always friendly and says hello. Most of the time in the afternoons, she is in and out of her house, working on laundry outside. Her freckles match her strawberry red hair that stays tied back in a ponytail. Her wardrobe is all jeans and t-shirts, even if you see her for a fancy dinner out at Gino’s: the neighborhood Italian restaurant.
Her laundry room isn’t really a room, but an outside closet that just fits her washer and dryer. The laundry room can only be reached from going out the kitchen’s back door outside to the concrete slab, which looks out on a patchy green and brown lawn with an old rusted shed and an aged swing set. The only time the concrete slab was cleared off was when her washer was broken, and the water had flowed out from the small room to where her things were stacked.
She has four children. The oldest is about 16. She likes to cut her hair short like a boy’s and dresses in black and chains. The youngest is about 4 or 5 and is a cute little boy with blond hair and a big smile. She also has a child that is handicap and bedridden. She is always dragging bundles of bed sheets out to wash. The husband works long hours and sometimes you can hear him crank up his motorcycle. The husband works a lot, but her work is always growing too. Six people makes a large family to care for.
Outside, relaxing one day in my lawn chairs, she leaned over the chain length fence that separates our yards. “Don’t be freaked out, but there are fruit rats that live in the trees.” She wants to tear down the vines in the trees that hang over her porch and part of my backyard. Perhaps another ‘Saturday project’. Although she may have laundry and other random things huddled on her back porch, she works hard to take care of her family. She is friendly, considerate, and always willing lend a hand or an ear.
Did my neighbors put up that fence to block me and my things? Guess I’d put up a fence like that if my neighbor were keeping that much stuff stacked on their porch.
Every day, it’s taking care of the family. Maybe one day she’ll get to that stuff outside. Things like laundry, cooking, and shuttling come first. Her and her husband are working as hard as possible to keep the house from falling down around them, but they still find time to spend time with each other. The work is worth it for her, especially when her child gets a good grade, or when they will graduate from school, or watching them grow up and have families of their own. The family is work and love.