This is a piece I wrote for Prairie Times a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it on this sunny February Monday. It’s titled . . .
Memories at the Ironing Board
One gloomy Saturday I found myself in the laundry room facing several items that needed a touch of ironing. As I stood at the board listening to the steam hiss from the dimpled face of the iron, I thought back to the days when women had to iron all the time. There’s almost no such thing now, but I have to tell you, a sense of contentment washed over me as I ran the hot appliance over my favorite denim shirt. I was doing something useful and productive. And I had to stand still to do it.
There’s a distinct scent that rises from freshly ironed clothes. It’s fleeting but floats up from cloth and hot metal coming together to smooth out wrinkles. As each piece is finished there’s a great sense of satisfaction in seeing a line of wrinkle free shirts lined up in the closet. As a kind of bonus, while that task was being performed, I was able to let my mind happily wander; right there, doing such an old fashioned thing.
I kind of miss the routine of washing and drying dishes. Really. When my sisters and I were growing up, we’d do the dishes together. After we’d tried every trick in the book to get out of it, we’d usually settle down and get the job done. We’d use this time to sing some of the songs we’d learned in school. We, the three oldest, all had the same elementary school music teacher, Miss Burch, and our voices rang out over the sudsy water and clank of plates. Songs like “White Coral Bells,” and “Shenandoah,” drifted through the kitchen then.
At other times we’d play beat the clock. “Okay,” I’d say. “It’s six thirty. I’ll bet we can get this whole stinking mess cleaned up in twelve minutes.”
“Never happen,” said one sister.
“Come on, let’s try it,” said the other.
“Ready? Set? Go!”
And we were off like an illegal firecracker. We usually made our time and if you watched us you’d have seen quite a ballet. Dipping, reaching past, and dodging each other. At intervals we’d each throw a glance at the clock.
“Three minutes to go! Hurry up.” Then we’d put on the speed and congratulate ourselves when the last dish was dried and the sink was cleaned out. Dad was a real stickler for doing that last bit.
As I ironed my next piece I thought of a conversation I’d had with my daughter-in-law not too long ago. We spoke of the school playground games that were prevalent when we were kids. She, too, had played Four Square and Tetherball. I usually got clobbered at Four Square primarily because the boys were killer shots. I hardly ever made it to square one. But let me tell you about Tether Ball.
I was one of the queens at that game. There were about four of us in the fifth grade who ruled in the tether ball arena. My chief rivals were Cynthia and Donna. If you got off a good first punch you almost always had the advantage. The trick was to keep that ball flying so high over your opponent’s head she couldn’t reach it to send it back at you. If, on the other hand, she got in a couple of whumping pows! herself, well then the game was afoot. I relished the challenge and frequently won. I had a good right arm back then. And the boys? They pretty much stayed out of the way for that game.
There are things we remember from childhood that burn in our memory. They are not always the giddy with excitement times or the horribly embarrassing ones. No, sometimes a simple task like ironing allows the pleasant ones to bubble up, bringing a bit of reverie and sunshine into a gloomy Saturday. Nice.
Image: Free Digital Photos