I got my Christmas present today. A new washing machine is purring away in the closet some might call a laundry room. I didn't anticipate getting a washing machine for a gift. Things just have a way of happening. Or, rather, things just have a way of breaking right around Christmas time. (My most expensive Christmas present was a hot water heater.)

Anyway, tonight I did laundry with mixed emotions. I was feeling giddy with the new controls to learn - not to mention thrilled with all the dispensers and options I suddenly had. However, I was also missing my old machine a bit although I do hope it is eventually moved off the back porch.

For 22 years I have washed clothes in that trusty box. It's mate, the dryer, has been replaced three times, but the washer just kept on chugging. The years had given it certain eccentricities - much like the years have given me. For example, heavy items, like sweatshirts, towels and robes, had to be perfectly balanced or the machine would refuse to spin, emitting an ear-piercing shriek. I've been known to wash perfectly clean clothes, just to balance the washer when a hooded sweatshirt was dirty.

I didn't give much thought to it. It's the way the washing machine was. It's what I had to do. It never dawned on me to get a new one until this one broke, and my suggestion that we get a repairman was met with hilarious laughter. I was told that I'd have a hard time finding a repairman who was born before the washer was made.

I just don't notice things until they flat don't work anymore. I work around them. I use the eye on the stove that just gets warm as a chafing dish. I accept my chair as a rocker, since it doesn't recline anymore. My electric skillet with the broken leg is perfectly balanced on a can of tuna that no one should even think of eating. I wring the last bit of life out of every possession before I'm willing to replace it. It's what I call making do. I didn't always make do. As a matter of fact, I used to embrace change with the exuberance of a born agitator. I have changed.

Just how much I had changed was brought home to me when Molly was wrapping Christmas presents. I walked into her room and ran right into a wall of storm and fury. "Why," she demanded, "can't they make things come in boxes? How the heck am I supposed to wrap a triangle with a thing hanging off the top of it?"

I had never considered it. I just wrapped the weirdly shaped things (that hang on hooks in the stores) and thought I was an awful wrapper.

One of the most wonderful things about having children is when they toss you a thought that you've never considered, and in considering it, you learn something about yourself.

So, today I got a new washing machine and Molly got a stack of boxes in which to place oddly-shaped gifts. And I learned that accepting things that aren't truly broken, but just wearing out, isn't bad. But a little newness in unexpected places is exciting.

Maybe next Christmas I'll even get a new recliner.

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Terry Murry welcomes input and suggestions from readers. She can be reached at tmurry@uci.net or c/o P.O. Box 1089, Pendleton, OR 97801.

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