The Simple Beauty of Ironing

Kansas is flat.  So level, that when I looked out my grandmother’s kitchen window I could see my elementary school, Parkdale, like it was right next door.   Monday was washday at my grandmother’s.  I remember scalding hot water, Octagon soap, bluing and a manual wringer that could crush a finger to bits if you were unlucky enough to get a hand in the way.

I helped my grandma put the still steaming laundry on the line after they were wrung out to near-dry.  The tea towels and handkerchiefs were mine to hang. Drying time was 7 minutes tops for those items in the hot Kansas summer sun. The irises, lilacs and roses danced on the fabric of my grandmother’s shirtwaist dresses, gently sweeping the grass as they hung on the line.  The dresses piled in the clothes basket when dry carried the same sweet smell of grass, and wind and summer.

Tuesday was for ironing, and it would take up the entire day. My grandmother set up the ironing board in the dining room. She threw the windows wide open and turned on our one large fan full blast.  She started the ironing with the household items; the tablecloths the napkins and sheets.  She’d move on from there to my grandfather’s dress shirts and his handkerchiefs.

As the afternoon began to wind down she would spend the last part of the day on her flowered dresses, lovingly and expertly pressing every pleat straight and every collar until it was standing at attention as if it had a mind of its own.

My grandmother’s dresses wore well and some were decades old by the time I was born.  But the flowers were still bright, the hems still straight, the buttons still tight.

Now, everything is so chaotic. Too many things to handle at once. Grandma never rushed. As I grow older, I want the luxury of returning to a time when life is a slower and steadier.  I learned the lesson you taught me grandma, there’s a time and place for everything. And I will always do my best to get it right the first time.