My mum has this dream of seeing out her years wandering naked around the Kimberley with a herd of goats. I am not sure why goats exactly. They are cattle farmers and tried sheep once. She doesn't even like goats' cheese. The naked bit I do understand. "That's it, we're all moving to a nudist colony," has been the war cry of mothers for generations (in my family at least) as they battle a never diminishing pile of dirty laundry.
I am not particularly good at washing. Perhaps it is genetic. My mum never separated the whites from the colours and neither do I. I tend to stuff as much as I can into the front loader, chuck in a cup of biodegradable detergent and hope for the best.
We had a full house at New Years. Two extra families - five adults and nine children - running around under one roof while the rain bucketed down. The laundry was awash with children and clothes and drying space was at a premium. Our friends drove their wet clothes to the laundromat to finish it off in the industrial tumble dryer before we headed off camping on New Years Day. But I persisted, pushing more clothes through the machine and pegging out the last pair of underpants while the kids waited, buckled into their car seats, for us to leave.
When we returned home four days later there was more washing to do. It took a week for us to realise that things were missing. Five pairs of boys' shorts, my new pyjamas, the t-shirt Aunty Justine sent the baby for Christmas. We searched and searched but they had vanished, and after a month we called the police and reported the theft of two loads of washing from our clothesline.
With clinical precision we fleshed out the evolution of the crime. How holiday makers taking the short cut to the inlet past our garden had jumped the fence and made off with random objects from the line. I provided an itemised list of the clothing I knew to be missing and watched four year old legs closely to see if they happened to be wearing Darcy's favourite pair of iguana shorts. The ones with plasticine melted through the head of a lizard (from the time I put a car-boot load of dirty washing through a caravan park tumble dryer masquerading as a washing machine, and instead of cleaning them merely baked a pocketful of plasticine and washing powder on top of a thick layer of red Kimberley dirt. They came out beautifully warm.)
The iguana shorts were gone, and so I turned to my new sewing machine and ran up a few pairs of shorts and trousers, fleshing out the boys' wardrobes with op-shop finds. Aunty Justine sent down more shorts from Darwin and Nana drove down to visit with pyjamas and shorts bought on a mercy dash to the nearest department store.
And then it rained again, and I opened our clothes dryer and two loads of slightly mildewed washing fell on top of me. Don't worry, they came up a treat in the wash. Now could somebody please call the police?