I had a little God hug this morning in the form of a memory. I was walking into the gym watching the man from the linen service unload hampers of clean towels for delivery inside. He was standing on the liftgate as it was lowering and on the way down, the gate jerked and a huge cart of clean laundry fell off the side and tumbled into the street.
It reminded me of the times that my friend Lisa and I used to to transport the clean clothes from the laundry facility to our dorm room as a part of our weekly chores that we had to do as boarding school residents. Many a night the clean clothes would tip out of the baskets because she and I would stack two or three on top of each other so that we wouldn’t have to make more than one trip.
Getting the laundry was the job that Lisa and I frequently requested. For you see, to get into the laundry room, one had to traverse the storage room. And the storage room held the secret treasure.
Cases and cases of bottled cokes.
One quirky little rule about boarding school was that we were not allowed to drink cokes during the week. They were a weekend only treat, and even then, we were limited to no more than three, and we had to pay for those on the honor system by dropping our coins into a little coffee can that our dorm-mother set out on the counter in the little kitchenette. This little system worked well for me, but it was a major problem for Lisa.
Because Lisa was an addict.
A Coke addict.
Lisa came up with a plan by which she could feed her little addiction, and because I’m an enabler, and being the good friend that I am, I went along with it. If she was needing a little fizz fix, she’d pass me a note in study hall saying “We forgot to get the clothes.” In case the note was intercepted, the teacher would be none the wiser, but WE knew that was code for “We’re getting a Coke tonight!” After study hall, we’d head straight to the storage room, pop the top off a room temperature, dusty Coke bottle, and chug that baby with sweet abandon.
And then, so as not to be accused of stealing, we’d pay for whatever we took during the week on the weekend.
Drove our dorm-mother CRAZY when the empty bottles didn’t match up with the money in the till.
One night Lisa sent me a code note in study hall, but for some reason, I wasn’t going to be able to help her. She had to ask someone else to go with her because even though she was going to illegally drink hot cokes, she still had to get the laundry, and it was definitely a two person job to make sure the baskets didn’t tip over on the way back to the dorm.
She chose Susie L.
Sweet little Susie L. who had never done a single thing wrong in her whole life.
And so off they went.
Into the storage room.
Grabbed the room-temperature, dusty Coke bottles.
Started drinking them, without thinking of the one critical error they had just made.
They forgot to turn off the light.
A teacher passing by happened to see the light on in the room and popped in to flip it off.
And there she saw two thirteen year old girls.
Vainly trying to hide the bottles behind their back.
Oh the drama. I was back at the dorm when Lisa and Susie got hauled in for questioning. Guatemala lies just outside the reach of Child Protective Services, so Susie got one paddle since it was her first offense, and Lisa got two swats — one for sneaking cokes and one for leading Susie astray.
Over the years, Lisa and I laughed together many times about The Great Laundry Room incident, but today I laughed alone. My sweet friend died 15 years ago, taken from me suddenly by an aortic dissection as she jogged around a track with a friend.
She was only twenty-four.
It’s amazing how little things like spilled laundry can trigger a memory.
I was grateful for it.
For the laughter.
For the friendship.
For a God who takes away hurt and gives my soul peace.
As I walked into the gym, I made a mental note to add one more thing to my to-do list for the day.
Even if it meant an extra thirty minutes on the treadmill.
Have a Coke and a smile nice day.