Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ironing- A Memoir

This is not a post about how to "negotiate pleats" quoted from the brilliant John Travolta in his trans-sexual part as the laundress and mother of the large haired Tracy Turnblatt. (See the musical Hairspray, one of my favorites!) No, this post is about a thought I had while standing in our family room. I was ironing one of Zach's shirts for him for work the next day. I drug out the old metal ironing board with the same green plaid ironing pad, that has starch forever baked into the fibers. I heard that same familiar creaking noise as I pulled the leg open and situated the large awkward thing in the middle of the room so the iron cord would reach. For a short moment, I was the silhouette of my mother and how she spent many a days smoothing the wrinkles from our families clothes. How this was a small, unnoticed act of love. And only now that I am starting my own family do I see why she did it.
I remember as a child playing in our orange carpeted family room, as my mother ironed piles of my father's dress shirts. My father wore a neck tie to work everyday, and polished wing tip shoes. I can still hear the fitzzzz of the Niagara Spray Starch as she whizzed it across a sleeve or a collar. I remember the smell of the heated steam as it puffed faint remnants of starch and fabric softener, and mingled with the waxy/plastic smell of Lego's and crayons.
I remember thinking, what a silly thing ironing was. As a child, the ironed clothes didn't look much different from the un-ironed ones, and my mother spent hours at this chore. I would ask her to play, because this whole task seemed like a big waste of time, but kindly she would say no, and tell me stories of the days before permanent press, and spray wrinkle releases and how my grandmother used to iron anything and everything, including sheets and underwear. I guess she saw this as a suitable explanation, fraught with appreciation of modern advancements, and most of the time, whether I understood or not, I would drop the subject without further question.
I remember my fathers dress shirts being hung around the chairs of the kitchen table and how I was to treat them as precious porcelain. I would run upstairs for my mother and grab a wad of tangled hangers for her to hang them. She would, and then she would carry the pile upstairs to my dad's side of their closet and hang them like a row of thin soldiers, neat and straight and somewhat reminiscent of my father.
As an adult, I now see the significance of "i-roning" as I used to say when I was little. To me it says, I love you, I do this so you don't have to, and maybe Zach will smile just a little bit in the morning, because there's nothing quite like buttoning up a crisply ironed shirt.

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