IMG_0677IMG_0696IMG_0685IMG_0690-0Letters from happy customers hang on the walls at 702 Freedom Plains Road at the laundry mat in Apple Valley Plaza. As soon as customers walk through the door they are greeted with a bright smile, a warm ” hello”, and “what can I do to help you?”

For Suzy Kee, the owner, doing laundry isn’t only a job, it’s a passion. Both sets of Suzy’s grandparents owned laundry mats, and it is a tradition that she has found a way to embrace and make a huge part of her life. ” I love what I do,” Suzy says. “I’m not one of those people who gets up in the morning and hate going to work,” she said.   Suzy said when she started the laundry mat she wanted to pursue the American dream. ( that of being a business owner) She also said she wanted to reconnect with her ancestors, and that she felt that by starting the laundry mat she would be following in their foot steps.

When  deciding on a name for the business Suzy said she wanted something that was distinctive. She said, “I wanted something that reflected my personality.” She said that We’ve Got Your Sock, also displays a sense of humor. She said everyone has lost a sock at some point so the name fits with doing laundry. People have told Suzy that they’ve come to check out the laundry mat because of the name alone. But the name isn’t the only thing that makes this laundry mat unique.

The letters from customers line the walls of the laundry mat, but nostalgic memorabilia and antiques also line the shelves and extra spaces. Suzy gets the antiques from a variety of places. Sometimes she said she orders things from e-bay. She said she is always looking for something to make the place more appealing and relaxing.”I want it to be relaxing for the customers,”she said. ” I want people to have something to look at. Laundry is sometimes seen as a chore, if I can lighten it up for them, all the better,” she said. The antiques include a Maytag washing machine from 1946, a cold iron from the 1800’s, and a variety of cleaning supplies that are no longer being manufactured. She said it pulls things together and makes it pertinent. She said she didn’t want the laundry mat to be seen as just a place. She said that having the memorabilia makes people smile, which makes her smile.

Suzy’s former occupation was teaching, but she feels she isn’t far removed from it at the laundry mat. Suzy said, “No, I don’t miss teaching, because I’m still doing it in another way.” “I’m still doing the social aspects of teaching, it’s not just about book learning,” she said, “it’s about learning about life.”

She said she meets so many interesting people and that she learns from the customers all the time. “I’m learning about life through them,” she said. ” I get to know their life stories, they get to know mine,” she said. Suzy said she wants the business to be an interesting and friendly environment. “I want this (the business) to be an active part of the community,” she said. The business is becoming what she wants it to be. Students from the Anderson School for Autism come in once a week to learn about life skills such as cleaning, running a washing machine, taking out the garbage, etc.. She said they are learning about things that we take for granted. She said, “I’m blessed to have their assistance here. It reminds me of people who may be different from my immediate circumstance.” “We are all connected ,”she said.

We’ve Got Your Sock is extremely kid friendly. There are two aquariums, a children’s library, a maze bead cube, and a Fisher Price toy washer and dryer for the kids’ amusement and play. Suzy said, ”  making a place for the kids, that is the teacher in me.” She said, “kids will be bored and drive parents crazy if they don’t have something to do.” A bag filled with stickers, toys, and decorated pencils is kept in the corner for the children also. The child friendly atmosphere makes it easier for the parents to do their laundry without too much distraction she said.

Suzy said the laundry mat business is her life. She said, “I’ve met many close friends through the laundry mat.” “I met my boyfriend here,” she said. Among the services offered at the laundry mat are: self-service laundry,wash and fold, dry cleaning(not done on the premises),fax and copy machine services, alterations and repairing of clothes,and she sells Avon as a side business.

“I think if customers see that you are sincere, honest, caring, transparent, and hard-working, and you keep the place clean; they will come back,” she said. Suzy said,”If people see  that it’s not just a place, but that it’s a warm, caring, clean environment, they will want to come back.”

“I share whatever I  have,”she said. “There is nothing like seeing someone smile whether that person is an adult or a child. That makes my day,” she said.


.I never thought it would happen, but somehow, I have become my mother. I was  seventeen when my mother remarried and moved to another region of the country. Although I was remorse over having her move away, I was ecstatic that she had found someone who made her happy and to share her life with. Yet, her married bliss isn’t the topic of this post. A few weeks before she was to make that famous journey to New York, we sat at the kitchen table and she said,” Jo, the memories of raising children will overtake you if you don’t have something to fill the space of them leaving.” I didn’t have a clue as to what she meant as a seventeen year old.  Her words stayed with mewpid-IMG_20120818_173519.jpgIMG_0257.As a child I must have taken up a lot of “space” in her life

I can still hear my mother’s voice calling me every morning, that it was time to get up for school. She would call from the kitchen, “Jo-Anne, it’s time to get up.” I always overslept a little and she would wake me every morning until I entered middle school and got up on my own. Mother also woke up well before me and baked biscuits, made grits, sausage, or pancakes and bacon; whichever was in abundance in the kitchen cabinets.

Mom bathed my chicken pox and gave me St. Joseph’s baby aspirin for fever. She would pull the quilts over me when I had the chills; she would also remove the quilts when I was too warm from a fever. Mother would sit with me for hours at the doctor’s office because I was often sick as a child.

She washed my hair, dried it with an old towel,applied Royal Crown “grease” to make it shine, and straightened it with the “straightening comb”; sometimes burning my scalp. She took me to “town” to buy shoes from the only Buster Brown shoe store. She would buy patterns to make me dresses, and sit for days at the Singer sewing machine finishing those dresses . She planted a garden with tomatoes, onions, greens, and potatoes so there would be extra food on the table.

Mother buttoned my coat when I stood at the school bus stop in the cold. She drove me to school when I missed the bus. She worried about me every time I was in trouble. She cried inside when I didn’t have a boyfriend. She disciplined me when I skipped school and was incorrigible. She did all this for me and she still had seven other children to care for alone, after my father died.

I drove my last “baby” to college last September. When I returned “home” the house had taken on an enormity that I couldn’t describe. Even though the rooms were physically empty, all these pictures I envisioned kept going through my mind. These pictures included: Jaynae riding her bicycle outside and me yelling, “Be careful, don’t fall.” My walking Ima and Uyime to the bus stop on a crisp Fall morning. (seeing the two of them as a kindergartener and a third grader) I saw me and the children praying in the doorway before they went to school.I walked into their bedroom and saw myself reading to them before they drifted into sleep. I partially heard the repetitious songs I sang to  them at bedtime.

Then the years of driving them to dance class, piano practice, and  choir rehearsal came to mind; and the excitement of the recitals and of course the gorgeous stage costumes hanging in their closets. The day that I realized Jaynae was never coming home again surfaced. I walked once again into the room that holds every physical memory I managed to salvage of her life.

There were no voices to be  heard or physical bodies to be seen. All the noise that once so irritated me was now gone: I longed to hear one little “peep” of anything. The person that I’d created all those pictures with was gone too.(my ex-husband)

My mother’s words resonated in my head,”Jo, the memories of raising children will overtake you if you don’t have something to fill the space of them leaving.”  I hear you Mom and I  know for the first time in my life that because I am without my children doesn’t mean  I am without usefulness or purpose.