Sunday, September 5, 2010

Iron Maiden

Every once in a blue moon I pull out of my closet several linen or cotton shirts that desperately need to be ironed. And as I get out the ironing board and the iron, add water to the proper fill line, I wonder why I ever bought these shirts in the first place. I could go on and on about linen, the fabric everyone seems to love, but to me it is like wearing a Sharpei puppy, getting wrinkly and sloppy even if cool. 

But that is neither here nor there. As I began ironing my first black linen shirt, my boyfriend appeared, quite sheepishly, and asked “could you iron one of my shirts too?” Ugh, I let out a heavy sigh, “oh alright." “Would it be pushing it if I asked for two?” Holy #//@!, what does he think I am, his housekeeper, his maid, his personal laundry valet? “Why can’t you just take these to the drycleaner and have them laundered," I wonder out loud. He quietly hangs the two shirts on the chair next to me and sort of slinks out of the room. These work shirts of his are simple white cotton Ralph Lauren button down shirts. I do okay on the front and back, but I go crazy working with the sleeves and the cuffs. I hate it; it seems I add more wrinkles than I painstakingly try to remove. But whatever, I will iron them, put them back in his closet and hopefully he won’t notice my lack of good ironing skills, or if I’m lucky, he will and he’ll never ask me to do this dreadful chore for him again.

I remember once as a young girl, maybe 9 or perhaps 12 years old, my memories are rather blurry, my grandmother took me into her spare bedroom where she kept her sewing machine and iron, things like that, and tried to teach me the art of ironing. I probably gazed out the window into her backyard, bored, while she lovingly showed me step by step how to iron first this and then that. Little did she know, or maybe she did , I wasn’t paying any attention. But what I’m sure she didn’t know was that this was a skill that many women of my generation would discard and give to other people to do, to the drycleaner or perhaps their own hired help.
All of these wonderful and necessary skills, like an art form, are being long forgotten. Hem my own pants? Are you kidding me? No, I will take them to be altered. Iron, absolutely not, if I can help it, the drycleaner can do it. Sew on my missing buttons, perhaps, if I could see well enough to thread the damn needle! Bake my own Syrian bread? Nice thought, but no - thank goodness for Trader Joe’s – not very authentic and not nearly as delicious, but oh the convenience!

I thought about my mother and all of the woman of her generation who tirelessly did not only all the ironing, but sewing, mending, cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc. and I feel like they must look at all of us “homemakers” now and think we are a bunch of wimpy women. Ah, we have all of two kids and we just can’t handle it. Cleaning woman, daycare, doggie daycare, psychotherapists, cat sitter, gardener, wah wah wah over our Cosmopolitans on ladies night out. I realize we live in a different world, working our own outside jobs, creating a busier than busy world. But really, could we skip an hour of something each night (perhaps an episode of one of the endless TV dramas or newscasts that we have become so caught up in)  so that we could do a little mending of our own? My guess it that spending a meditative hour once in a while to flawlessly iron a shirt or sew on some buttons, hem my own pants or bake my own bread, just might mend a whole lot more than a buttonless sweater or a wrinkly blouse.

I look back at my Mom and my grandmother and all the tasks they performed and we didn’t think twice about them. They were just things Moms knew how to do. Who knew ironing was such an art or a skill to master? Not me, until again today when I am reminded of that as I hang my still half wrinkled shirt back in the closet and proclaim it to be “good enough.”

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