Tales of a Golden Heart, Chapter 12: Laundry Master

–Say it with flowers. __Florists’ commercial

One of our favorite places is the Laundromat. People gather by the dozens: White and black, Hispanic and Asian, crowding the aisles between washers and filling rotating video screens called “dryers” with a kaleidoscope of color and texture. It is a neighborhood of families, laundry being done by many couples, many children, some singles, and an occasional stray cat. The scenes are endless and wondrous: A four year old pushing his black Labrador puppy in a wheeled laundry cart, a bored father reading a paper, a neighborhood German Shepherd watching from the doorway as his flock fluff-dries its fleece for another week. On the audio side, adult conversations dip and swirl against a background of children’s hide and seek games among the machines, the occasional portable radio, and a steady background of piped-in rock music.

For us, this is a place of privacy and escape. Dirty clothes are first sorted and stuffed into washers. A soda from the machine is obtained, then seats on one of the benches along the wall of windows next to the sidewalk are chosen with an eye to convenience: Distance from smokers, foot traffic bottlenecks, and wall clock visibility. This is a most precious half hour and must not be wasted. One or another of the Eck works finds its pages opened, and I read aloud to my partner with a quiet, sharing joy.

We are a team. I love to read aloud; she loves to listen. Our little world is private and something else as well; those watch us who are drawn to the Eck flowing through its vehicles. Background noise prevents their hearing many of the actual words being spoken, yet they are pulled as hummingbirds to honeysuckle, sensing some essence in our presence that magnetizes their attention. We note their presence with delight, careful to avoid disturbing them as the wildlife photographer avoids disturbing the fawn sniffing a new dawn or a pair of wolf cubs at play in the forest.

One night, it is children who come near, one tiny fellow climbing onto the bench, ostensibly watching other children at play. Another time, a lady stands next to us at the clothes-folding counter, fidgeting and pacing, unable to understand yet feeling she must be near until it is finally too much and she steps away. One evening, two young men with open hearts leave with our copy of In My Soul I Am Free, one reading to the other and simultaneously translating Brad Steiger’s description of Paul Twitchell’s early life to Spanish.

This night carries extra meaning. For several weeks running, our schedules have been too hectic to allow for our heart-loving soap opera retreat. Instead, laundry chores have somehow been squeezed into her busy days, keeping clean garments available for our bodies while regretfully missing the togetherness. Still, we know we have been doing what needed to be done, one big project is finally over, and now it is–as the beer commercial puts it–time to relax.

Several minutes into the reading, we attract a couple of people who sit on the bench to my right. My partner sits on my left, listening to a story about a lady whose severe limp was subtly healed by the Mahanta. Moments later, a gentle male voice penetrates our cozy aura.

“Roses for Mother? Roses for Mother?”

Virtually hovering over me, a slim brown-eyed man stands smiling. He has thinning brown hair and wears a light brown shirt with matching brown slacks. Are his shoes brown? I fail to notice. Crooked in one arm, he carries a white plastic bucket filled with roses individually wrapped in cellophane. There are red roses, white ones, and yellow ones. And tomorrow, come to think of it, will be Mother’s Day.

“Roses for Mother?” He repeats. “Roses for mother?”

Something about him seems familiar. Let’s see, the ol’ pocket holds a few dollars…. “I’ll take one.”

He watches my indecision, then suggests, “The yellow ones are the nicest.”

By this time I know him. He moves on down the washing machine rows, cheerfully soliciting every male in the place. “Roses for Mother? Roses for Mother?”

“You think there’s something about that man, don’t you?” My partner queries softly.

“That man is not just a man.”

“Oh. He’s not.”

“No. He’s not.” The Mahanta, the Living Eck Master, has manifested as an act of grace, letting us know our efforts of recent weeks have not gone unnoticed, that we are cherished and have done well. My eyes follow him as he finishes one row of washers and starts along another, here and there a customer parting with a dollar or two in return for a flower more special than the buyer can guess.

“Look,” I murmur, thinking of the story we’ve just read. “He’s even got the limp. Are you enjoying watching him?”

She chuckles. “I’m enjoying watching you.”

The Man in Brown finishes the last row of customers and limps happily out the door, into San Diego’s night. Were I to follow, I would not find him. I turn at last to look at the lady at my side, joy bubbling through me like some Yellowstone Park geyser laughing at winter, warm and content and free.

“You’re right,” she smiles, referring to a much earlier conversation. “There is a different light in your eyes.”


For our readers who may not recognize words like Eckankar, Eck, or Mahanta, the definitions can be found in A Glossary of Eck Terms at Eckankar.org.