Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pressing Matters
















When I was very young, no more than six or seven, after watching my mother iron my father's clothes, even the handkerchiefs, I asked her if I could iron, too. I think it was the rhythmic yet precise movements I wanted to experience. And so, with what surely must have been a mixture of feelings - trepidation melding with the desire to encourage my interest in the necessary, but mundane - she left a small pile of handkerchiefs for me to iron. I could barely see above the ironing board, set up on the back porch, next to the chest freezer, where several summers in the future, a boy I liked would tell me he liked me, using the lyrics of a song. But, that long ago summer, I accidentally jostled the board and in a split second the tip of the iron fell on my wrist. As my mother applied a salve - another mixture, this one tinged with regret - I reassured her it was alright. Over fifty years later, I stand here in my kitchen, turn my wrist, and see it there: a faded triangle of silver nestled between two muted blue lines that form a 'y,' like a fork in the road. I look up and a triangle of silver light has sliced through the branches of a very tall Norway pine and settled on the rough bark. It's still morning on that back porch and here in my kitchen.





Painting by Grant Wood

30 comments:

  1. Hello Teresa:
    So strange how these flashback moments can happen in life, a certain light, a particular scent, a special noise and suddenly one can be transported into an entirely different time and place.

    How well one remembers the ironing technique for handkerchiefs, especially when the embroidered initial had to end up in a particular position.And now, one never sees a handkerchief of cotton, linen or silk......

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    1. I love these triggers that transport us. And, no, there are not many handkerchiefs being used now. At one time, I had a collection of ladies handkerchiefs, but they are gone now, too.

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  2. I still iron, using my mother's ironing board. Memories of mom and her ironing instructions find me every time..."don't press the wrinkles in".

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  3. Beautifully written Teresa.
    The simple and mundane can make the most poignant memories.

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    1. Thank you, Rubye Jack. Nice to have you back. :) It's those simple things that pop up unbidden with sweet, and sometimes bittersweet, memories.

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  4. Don't you find this is happening more and more? I do.

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    1. Yes, frequently, and as you say, more and more... It's fascinating and comforting at the same time.

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  5. Just yesterday I commented to a fellow luncheon attendee that the only time I iron is at Christmas, for the tablecloths. As a matter of fact, I have no idea where my iron actually is.

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    1. I have a few pieces of clothing that are linen and so they still get ironed...when I wear them. Otherwise, my iron stays up in the cupboard most of the time. I actually have come to not mind it. I still like the sense of rhythm and the freshly ironed clothes. I must have too much time on my hands... :)

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  6. Hej Teresa, that's a fine story. I think ironing is so cosy, and you can memorize things, while you are ironing, like you have been doing here - or experience a deja vu. And afterwards you'll put the linen into the cupboard or whereever you hide it, a fine ironed bunch of clean linen with that lovely smell of ironed cloth. I like that. And then you have done something your mother did so many times.

    I'll tell you something stupid I did with an iron last year. I had bought one of those press-irons with water, I don't know what you call them. There was such a strange layeron it, and I tried to remove it. Oh, my, I had destroyed a new iron. I put it in the place where we can get rid of garbage. A few days later I talked to a neighbour when I passed the "garbage-container". He was happy because he had found a new iron there, and now he wanted to go back and give it to his wife. He had put it in a bag. But it must have been my iron!! So silly! And he said there was nothing wrong with it.

    I like the painting. It fits the atmosphere of your story.
    Cheers
    Grethe ´)

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    1. The smell! Yes, I love that smell. When I think of the mountains of ironing my mother must have done in her life.... when things hang on the line to dry, they need more ironing.

      It sounds like your steam iron's "strange layer" may have been a "teflon" coating, like some pans have. Maybe the neighbor needed an iron desperately. :)

      I'm glad you saw the atmosphere in the painting. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Grethe.

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  7. I have a ironing scar on my hand. According to my mother, the hot iron was sitting on the ironing board and I ran up and put my hand on it to see if it was hot. I was four years old and it was very hot.

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    1. Scar stories. Many tales for all of us to tell, I would guess. :)

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  8. I just rolled up my sleeve to see whether my own small triangle was still there. I can still see it, but only under bright light and only because I knew exactly where to look. Memories indeed. And I just bought a new iron because I need one for sewing and, like you, occasionally for my clothes. I like your comment about scar stories, too.

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    1. There was a movie where Mel Gibson and Rene Russo exchanged scar stories. Perhaps a blog is in the works... :)

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  9. I have an iron. It's expected that I would have one. But I don't think I've used it more than once in the past ten years. My mother used to iron all the time, but I still wonder WHAT she ironed...

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  10. Lovely post, I could say more, but I think it would be a clutter to your words and the feelings they have invoked from within me.

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  11. My grandmother even ironed sheets. I thought of going to a sale once and bought a ladies former husband handkerchiefs and marveled at the love she had placed in them ironing them with a sharp crease. It was a bit hard for her to give these up, I could see it in her eyes.

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    1. I can imagine that she had mixed feelings, but was happy to know someone wanted them. Ironing can be a real act of love.

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    1. The one from my youth? "Ruby," by Dion and the Belmonts. :)

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  13. I hadn't though about it for years and years, but when I was about the same age as you were I also would iron small things like handkerchiefs and dish towels. A small thing, but a good memory of the patience of my mother.

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    1. It is their patience that is so very memorable.

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  14. Dear Teresa, you are a poet, the daughter of a woman who instinctively knew how to nurture with tenderness and empathy. Peace.

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    1. I always felt loved growing up, for which I'm very grateful. Thank you, Dee.

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  15. This is such an evocative post, Teresa. I'm just starting to catch up from my time in your fine state, and it will take me awhile to go through all I missed, but, here I am, thinking of ironing now.

    My mother loved to iron. I don't much like to, but, do like to iron napkins and flat pieces - and my pillowcases (just the cases).

    I similarly suffered a burn from an iron, not telling anyone until it blistered and my grandmother guessed something was wrong with me. A story I shall tell one day.

    A few years ago, getting dressed for a wedding. Tom fretted as his handkerchiefs seemed to have disappeared. I decided then and there to give him a package of new ones for Christmas a few months later. I cannot begin to tell you how fascinating and romantic our Katy thought it was to gift him with handkerchiefs. Sigh.

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    1. What a lovely gift. I love that and am so glad you told me. I also hope to read your own ironing accident story sometime.

      Welcome home! It looks like you had a fine time with the new little one.

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