I do the laundry at my house. I figure, since I sort it all, load it into baskets, haul it downstairs, wash it, dry it, fold it, haul it back upstairs, and put it all away, the other inmates can be responsible for emptying their own pockets and putting the discarded clothing in the hamper. This seems reasonable to me, even generous. And for the most part, the other inmates hold up their end of the bargain. Dirty clothes usually end up somewhere in the general vicinity of some receptacle intended to hold them until laundry day. As a rule, money, pens, and small animals have been removed from the pockets. (The fact that I have a strict rule that I keep any money I find in the laundry may have something to do with this.) But once in a while...once in a while I find things in the dryer that just don't belong there.
The Crayola Incident is burned into the collective memory of my family. It was directly responsible for The Great Crayon Ban of 2001. And there was that time my sister was visiting and I found a whole lot of shredded coconut and raisins in the dryer. I will never forget the expression on her face when she said: "That looks like the trail mix I had in my pocket...but what happened to the burrito?!" Indeed, my Maytag appears to have digested half a breakfast burrito in its entirety, leaving no evidence behind. (I never did get a straight answer about what half of a breakfast burrito was doing in her pocket in the first place.) I won't even discuss The Diaper Years and their attendant laundry surprises, because I have been largely successful in blocking them out of my mind and prefer to keep it that way. There are the inevitable pocket knives and magnifying glasses and other people's socks--which would be weird if I didn't always have other people's kids at my house. Boys seem to be universally opposed to keeping their socks on their feet. I have pulled innumerable empty tubes of Neutrogena lip balm out of the dryer, their waxy contents having been evenly distributed over every square inch of fabric. And my husband doesn't wear clothes speckled creatively with large black ink splotches as a fashion statement.
I can usually identify the source of unusual laundry markings at first glance. Today was another story. I did five loads of laundry without incident. But when I went to pull the sixth out of the dryer, I was greeted by an unexpectedly minty odor. As I opened the dryer door, I felt that sinking feeling at the sight of gooey dark smears coating the inside of the dryer and large oily blotches on the freshly dried clothes. Initially I diagnosed a double-whammy lip balm-and-ink pen disaster. But on closer inspection, I am convinced that Someone (and I'm not pointing fingers, even though there was an awful lot of sticky lint in Younger Son's pants pocket) left a pack of sugarless gum in a pocket, which melted, coating the laundry and the interior of the dryer, and then became encrusted in dryer lint. It's sticky, smeary, and fuzzy, all at once. As I write, an undoubtedly toxic combination of household chemicals is marinating in the dryer, melting off the fragrant gum-and-lint tapenade (I hope).
But as I was kneeling on the tile floor, upper body in the dryer, inhaling an unhealthy volume of 409 fumes, I began to wonder: what's the weirdest thing you've ever found in the wash?