I ironed yesterday. I always thought my mother was a little crazy when she talked about the "good ol' days" and how she used to actually enjoy ironing. And, yet there I was -- actually enjoying myself.
Back in the day when Mothers worked from home, household duties were less like chores to be discouraged and frustrated by, and more like the Olympics -- feats of incredible strength, both body and mind, that women were proud to have accomplished (and their husbands were appreciative to have completed!). Everything from sheets, to cloth baby diapers, to Dad's underwear got ironed, not a wrinkle anywhere in the house. I visualize my mother, baby on hip, another baby crawling around at her feet, and yet another baby in her tummy (yes, she was a busy one -- bom-chicka-wow-wow!), standing at the ironing board, a basket of clean laundry waiting for its turn at her capable hand. Maybe Days of Our Lives provided some dramatic-relief in the background, or, maybe "Unchained Melody" cooed quietly over the radio. And there stands Linda -- methodically, proudly, purposefully -- treating each item in her care as if it is the most important piece of cloth in the world.
I have no problem admitting that I've never felt that way about ironing my clothes. I'm the type of person that puts more creases into something than what it started with. My motto is, "If it can't be ironed by the wrinkle-release cycle in my dryer, I don't want it!". I have never been able to figure out the proper method to iron around a collar into the shoulder of a shirt. The arms provide a special dilemma for me -- where exactly is the crease supposed to lay? As for dress pants, I feel annoyed when a long, rigid crease runs down the middle of the leg. I don't understand it and I refuse to take part in such shenanigans.
Yet, my mother always said that to her, ironing was cathartic. The iron seemed to be a natural extension of her hand, as much a tool of her game as the Babe's bat. Where I see ironing as a challenge to my intellect, my mother's ironing was naturally guided by instinct and insight. Ironing requires a delicate yet forceful touch, patience, an eye for detail, and the ability to problem solve. It's no wonder that mothers are so naturally gifted where the iron is concerned.
While my mother would iron, the world's problems melted away, dissolving as the rumples on those curtains. For the first time yesterday, it all made sense to me. Standing at my post in the archival library, I am confronted with exhibits from the past -- posters crinkled and wrinkled with time, folded and forgotten, their usefulness long abandoned. The delicate paper ready to tear away with any harsh sudden move. Yet, under my capable hands, these crumpled pieces of history can be restored, can once again be beautiful and purpose-laden. The way to bring these fragile documents back to life: the iron. I carefully place these posters from the late 1800's under a pristine cotton cloth and with that same delicate yet forceful touch, steam and press one-hundred years of subjugation out from each fold.
Like my mother, I allowed my thoughts to drift away with the iron at my fingertips, feeling that peace that only comes with quietness of the spirit and the mind. I achieved, in those moments, the sheer joy in bringing something out of the rubble and into a re-birth. Standing there, ironing my little heart out, I finally understood the allure of that common piece of household equipment and felt closer to my mother, miles away in the basement of that library, than I have in years.