This is the Way We Iron Our Clothes

You cant choose the iron in Monopoly anymore, since its been retired. I never liked that game, so this fact doesnt affect me at all. But the iron as a game piece might have been the only reminder that such a household tool ever existed. In time, our descendents will see an iron in an antique store and wonder what on earth it was used for.

The iron and the ironing board evoke 2 memories from my childhood, both of them pleasant and both of them treasured.

When I was a little girl, my cousins and I spent summers at our grandmothers cottage in southern Indiana. Cottage is a euphemism for this tiny clapboard house, with no electricity and no running water. The memories made in those summers in that little house could fill a book, and maybe they will someday. Once a week, Grandma carried the dirty clothes down through the woods to the spring. We kids would carry the soap, the washboard, and a big wooden spoon. Grandma built a fire under a huge pot of water, and thus laundry day began. The next day, Grandma would heat two irons on the wood stove in the house. They were heavy things, actually made of iron. While she worked with one, the other one would be kept hot on the stove. As the day wore on, little dresses, shirts, and blouses hung on hangers from every doorway, curtain rod, and shelf in the house. The heat from the irons mixed with the steam from the sprinkles of water doused on the clothes produced one of my favorite fragrances in the world, freshly ironed cotton. Nothing feels cleaner and crisper than slipping on a cotton blouse, still warm from the iron, unless its slipping between freshly ironed sheets. Who even irons sheets anymore?

Later, as a pre-teen, I was allowed to iron pillow cases and handkerchiefs. Allowed? Yes, I loved to iron. Just like shoveling snow or raking leaves, ironing gave me a sense of accomplishment, as I started with a damp and wrinkled piece of cloth that I made smooth and dry. I liked being able to see the results of my efforts. On sunday afternoons, my mother and I would spell each other at the ironing board in the basement. Wed fill a bowl with potato chips and dip, pour 2 glasses of ginger ale, put some classical music on the high fi, and spend a couple of hours bonding as mother and

daughter. One of us would sit at the bar, munching and sipping, while the other would take her turn, plucking one of the neatly rolled up dampened bundles from the clothes basket. My mother worked outside the home, and most evenings were spent on homework, but that shared time with the ironing was our quality time. When 2 people share a task, its a great time to share stories, problems, plans, feelings, and dreams. Its also a great excuse to eat chips and dip.


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