I finally got around to folding the clean cleaning rags in the laundry basket that had been kicking around the basement for a couple of weeks. Surprised to learn that I fold cleaning rags? Well, that's what I was taught to do, although I have at least rebelled against my mother's strict system of sorting the rags into three distinct piles. There was the dusting pile, made up for the most part of old t-shirts. 100% cotton only - synthetic blends need not apply. There was the window-cleaning pile, mostly thin old cotton sheets that had worn through where our feet had restlessly kicked at night. Finally, there were the old towels, saved to soak up all the spills and accidents of a growing family.
I am happy to just get the rags folded into one neat pile. They are predominantly old towels, I find. Bath towels and wash clothes, hand towels and dish clothes, worn thin from repeated use. Some of the blue and yellow bath towels go back to when we lived on Longford. The pink and green patchwork-patterned ones (they look as bad as they sound) date to before the bathroom re-model on Denison. Some of the kitchen towels we took to Chincoteague and back, to the little house on Lewis Street where we stayed each summer.
There are not just old towels in my clean pile of rags, however. I find pieces of Ben's old flannel shirts, that always seem to grow too short in the sleeves before they can wear out. Oxford cloth shirts that he wore to work make excellent cleaning rags, and I find a few of those, as well. I don't find any of the kids' old clothes, and that puzzles me at first, until I remember that we always gave those to someone we knew with younger children or bundled them off to Goodwill.
The remnants of my own old clothes are the most poignant reminders of the past. Here is a panel of those flowered Liz Claiborne shorts I wore when we took the kids to Disney World. How I regretted wearing shorts that had to be unbuttoned and then un-zipped for each of my many trips to the restroom! Here is the front of that over-sized New York Yankees t-shirt I bought to wear when I was pregnant with Tom. It reminds me that I saw my first major league baseball game during that pregnancy - the Cleveland Indians played the Yankees. (Reggie Jackson hit a solo home run in his first at-bat.) I don't seem to have a single remnant left of my dad's old flannel shirt. I wore that all the time when I lived in the dorm, and for many years after that. When it was beyond wearing, I cut it up for cleaning rags. It seems even those are gone now.
That's the interesting thing about it, I guess. The cleaning rags just wear away over time, some taking longer than others. As I fold them, I remember. It's not such a bad thing.