You may remember my column last January about Wash Day Mondays at our house, so it followed that Tuesdays were Ironing Days. Mom ironed EVERYTHING, including our sheets, our hankies (no Kleenex in our family!) and even our underwear.
Her effort was carefully orchestrated. On Monday evening, after she’d taken our laundry off the clothesline, she’d dampen everything by sprinkling water over each piece, then put it in a plastic bag to “steep” overnight.
On Tuesday morning, she began ironing in the unheated and uncooled back porch. I marvel at how hot she must have been on those torrid summer days, but she never complained, even wearing stockings and a corset. And I never saw her wear a coat to iron in the wintertime. Those Depression-era ladies were tough cookies!
Were I really a good girl, she’d let me iron napkins and hankies. I was in heaven and so proud of my work. Now I wonder what in heck I was thinking.
When my sister had her first baby in California, we traveled there so Mom could help around her house while she recuperated, doing her laundry and ironing, among other things.
My brother-in-law’s boxer shorts developed a hole, and Mom took frugality to a whole new level. She bought and used an iron-on patch. Unfortunately, the sticky part of the patch stuck to my brother-in-law’s rear every time he sat down.
The mental image of my brother-in-law Joe, the macho Marine, coming unglued from those shorts, is priceless. After only one wearing, the shorts hit the trash can and my mother never used an iron-on patch on underwear again.
Fast forward to my college days, when I volunteered to wash and iron my future husband’s shirts, to save the 25-cent cost of having each one laundered. I dampened the shirts as I’d seen Mom do, put them in a plastic bag and left them there for a week.
Imagine my horror when I opened the bag to 20 shirts covered in little dots – like green measles victims. In a panic, I sent the shirts home to Mom, who miraculously rescued them from their mildew. To this day, I don’t know how she did it.
When my boyfriend inquired about his missing shirts, and I put him off with some lame excuse until the nice clean, ironed shirts arrived in the mail. So, as usual, it was Mom to the rescue of this Old School girl who hadn’t learned the ironing protocol.
Reach Carol McEwen at firstname.lastname@example.org.