Saturday, August 1, 2015
Ironing in the Summertime-Turning Wrinkles into Magic
I'd watched my mother iron. It was more of an art form to her and to her mother and sisters. Whatever it was that my mother was ironing, she'd spread it out on her ironing board as if getting a game plan together in her head as to how to approach the item. Then she'd pat it down-wet her finger and then touch that finger to the iron. If it made a sizzling noise it meant the iron was hot enough for her to proceed. Back then, the ironing board was either up all the time or close at hand because everything was ironed. Bed sheets-pillowcases-towels-everything or anything was ironed. I'd learned the basics just by watching. Now it was my turn-and that included my father's shirts he'd wear to work at his funeral home. But that didn't bother me. I knew what to do.
In the afternoons I'd set the ironing board up in the living room. With both the iron and the TV on, I would stand there for a very long time and iron. Beforehand in the morning-after doing the dishes and then the washing and the drying of the laundry, I would take my father's good shirts and do as my mother always did. While holding a shirt in one hand, I would sprinkle water on the shirt and as I did I would tuck the sleeves in and eventually as I watered it, the shirt would end up being rolled into a tight ball. After the towels had been ironed and folded-after the sheets had been spread out and ironed and then folded and folded again and ironed-as well as the pillowcases and everything else in the laundry basket, it would be time to do the shirts. This became the fun part to me. Every shirt was a challenge. They had to look the best they could. My father was counting on me.
One by one-I'd unroll them. If I thought a shirt was too dry I'd sprinkle it again with water. Then I'd begin-starting with the sleeves-then the fronts. Then I'd spread the back out on the board. Moving it along, the back of the shirt would be ironed. Then, spreading just the collar out, I would carefully iron the collar-trying to avoid any creases. After the collar-came the best part of all-ironing the shoulders-bringing it all together with a neatly ironed shoulder crease. After I'd finished the process, I'd hang the shirt up to dry-and start in on another.
Ironing was never a chore to me. I felt like a conductor of an orchestra-lining the items up and turning wrinkles into magic. A part of my reward was the smell of the iron working those wrinkles out. To this day I love that smell. It takes me back to those summer afternoons ironing in the living room with the TV on.
(The picture above shows my mother just out of the hospital and me rocking my baby brother to sleep in his carriage. I was probably in a hurry. I still had the ironing to do!)