Sunday, May 19, 2013
I was rushing yesterday, dressing to go out for dinner, and realized that my jersey was wrinkled.
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I whipped down the ironing board, plugged in the steam iron and soon was suitably pressed and dressed.
As I drove to dinner, I thought that young adults today probably don't even know what an iron is.
Or if they do, they don't know that steam irons were a fantastic invention.
Before that, you had to " sprinkle" your clothes with water and roll them into little balls to stay moist. Then later, you would iron them. It was a trick to time everything just right. If you waited too long, the clothes would no longer be damp, and you had to " re-sprinkle them". If you began too early, the garment was too wet and it would take forever to iron. A sprinkler was usually an empty Coca-Cola bottle with a cork in the top. The cork had holes in it that would allow the water to come out gently, just enough to dampen the blouses and linen pants.
Later, some enterprising company created a plastic bottle with a top with small holes just for this purpose. With the advent of the steam iron, the whole process became easier.
As I reflected on my ironing chore, I remembered the time I came home from high school, probably about age 14 or 15 and told my mother that I had just heard the craziest thing.
My friend Marcia told me that her mother used to iron her underpants. She smiled at me and said, "Of course dear, I always ironed your and your sister's underwear. " (This was before she had three more children). I looked at her like she had two heads and asked why on earth she would do that. She just looked at me and said simply, "Because it made a nicer drawer."
Now this was a while before the women's rights movement, but even then I had several questions:
One: Does ironed underwear really make for a nicer drawer?
Two: Might there be bureau drawer police coming to check on the condition of my underwear drawer?
And the largest: Why on earth would my mother take pride in having nice underwear drawers for her daughters? Might there be a few things in her life that might be more important?
Later in her life, my mother did indeed find other avenues to direct her efforts. She taught bridge at the local senior center and worked as a literacy volunteer. She also went back to the university and took courses for several years.
It is my hope that she took as much satisfaction in these endeavors as she did in creating a "nice drawer" for my sister and me.
I still iron when it's absolutely necessary, but only garments whose wrinkles would show on the outside. And I seriously hope there aren't any bureau drawer police, because I know I would be arrested and found guilty in short order.
Cheryl Stitham White does her ironing these days at home in South Portland.