Op-Ed – August 2009

By Maggie Van Ostrand
You Got To Know When To Fold ‘Em

maggie-colorWhen Kenny Rogers sang, “Ya got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em …” in his hit, “The Gambler,” he was singing about more than playing cards, he was singing about life with Josefina.

With all that’s going on in the world today, I should probably be more upset about unchecked crime, crooked politicians, and the faltering economy. But no, I’ll leave those worries to people who can do something about them. What really concerns me is my laundry, and that I’m unable to fold it as well as Josefina. She really knows “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Nobody does it better, not even the dry-cleaner.

Josefina, housekeeper extraordinaire, can fold T-shirts into a perfect rectangle; one so perfect that whatever printing is on the T-shirt front is precisely centered in the final fold. She can fold fat and fluffy towels so that the ends come together perfectly without using a ruler (like me), and those she folds could be used in a Vogue ad for Cannon Towels.

In fact, Josefina can actually fold fitted sheets. I’m not making that up. In the few minutes it takes her to finish doing it, you can’t tell the difference between the folded flat sheets and the folded fitted ones. Her corners are as crisp and sharp as the edges of a new envelope. If she ever sees the way I fold things, she won’t faint, that’s for sissies; instead, Josefina will giggle behind her hand, the way she did when she spied me spraying green paint over the brown stains my dogs left on the lawn grass. But I digress.

Everybody has something they can do well, and sometimes life is simply trying to figure out what that thing we do well is. For me, if I can eliminate things I can’t do, what’s left will be my answer. I can’t do calculus or anything else with numbers; I can’t open jars without either a wrench or a man, and I can’t figure out why auto mechanics can talk to men without looking at their chests the way they look at ours.

I can’t always understand exactly what poets mean in their poems, can’t cook anymore without a pair of scissors, some pliers, and a box of Band Aids, and I don’t get how a battery works even though I read the explanation in an encyclopedia.

However, I may be getting closer to finding out what I can do well because now I can also eliminate folding laundry into a decent shape. When I attempt to fold like Josefina, laundry comes out like a bag full of deflated soccer balls that’s been out in the rain too long.

On the other hand, Josefina has been doing everything well for her entire life. She’s one of the world’s great cooks, sews beautifully, can keep a garment looking new after 20 years of heavy wear. She’s a wonderful wife and mother, and saves money on electric bills because her smile lights up the room.

If I could, I’d take Josefina everywhere I go and hope the reflection of her talent might bounce a little off me. It’s like a line in another Kenny Rogers’ song, “Planet Texas”: I seen London, Paris, Budapest, Kashmir and Tokyo and there ain’t no sight like a desert night looking down on Mexico.

Kenny Rogers looking down on Mexico from Texas has nothing on the saints who look down from Heaven on Josefina. Would you believe there are no fewer than five patron saints of laundry? Clare of Assisi, Hunna, Lawrence, Martha and Veronica…and Josefina can fold fitted sheets every bit as well as they can.


For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

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