Nostalgia and The Ironing Board

We are having new carpet put in our bedroom and walk-in closet in two days. This necessitates a spring cleaning of sorts as we have to relocate all the furniture and clothing before carpet can be taken out and replaced. I discovered in the dark back corner of my closet, the ironing board. Not an ironing board but THE ironing board.

I’m of the opinion that if clothing is not wash-and-wear or permanent press it should not belong to us. It is immediately put into a bag and rehomed to a place more suitable – a place where someone likes to iron. In this day when ripped and wrinkled are fashion statements, I am old school – no rips and a modicum of wrinkles. I am not old school enough, however, to iron clothes. I’m a great fan of plissé, crinkle fabrics.

I was eleven when I was pressed (pun intended) into service as the family ironer. Mother ironed Everything from our clothing to sheets and towels – even my Dad’s boxers and undershirts were pressed and folded. She taught me the fine art and it became my Saturday morning task.

THE ironing board came to my house after Mom died. I knew I would probably never use it, but it is older than I, had been in the family eighty-odd years and it felt disrespectful to toss it out. It is wooden with a faded blue gingham padded cover. Those covers were changed often because Mom didn’t like to have scorch marks on them. It is retired now as all good servants should be and has not seen the light of day since 2003.

As an adult, I would tease Mom that she lived in a Doris Day movie in her head. I swear that if you looked into the closets of Ms. Day’s movie set it would look exactly like Mom’s. Her shelves were neat with towels arranged in color-coordinated harmony and stacked from large to small. Dishes too had their own particular symmetry on their shelves.  Her clothes closet was organized in order of seasons, then by type (dresses, skirts, shirts, blouses, pants, etc.) then by color. Organize and accomplish were her favorite words.

Didn’t have roses for pic but you get the idea

Mind you she was a full-time career woman until she was seventy-five and she ran our household like her office – precise and orderly. She managed to work all day after making breakfast for her husband and two kids and lunches for school. When she came home, she fixed dinner for all. She laid out my outfits for the following day. Her evenings were spent paying bills, or mending, or ironing and prepping to start all over again the next day. After we bought a TV in 1952, she might spend an hour watching it with the family, but she was always doing a little chore at the same time.

Once THE ironing board became a prop for my dad who loved to think creatively. Mom had talked of buying a steam iron – a relatively new appliance for the modern home in the 1950s. Before the steam iron, Mom would dampen Dad’s freshly laundered shirts (they were washed in a machine, then hung on a line outside to dry), roll them like fat sausages, and put them in the fridge to await ironing. She also used a coke bottle fitted with a sprinkle top that was filled with water to dampen clothes as she ironed them. The steam iron circumvented that process. As a surprise, Dad bought one. Very early on her birthday morning, he set up THE ironing board in the dining room with a pair of his boxers over the end, a vase of two dozen red roses, and the new steam iron on it. He rarely got up before her, so he had to be very sneaky. He got me up to watch.  We waited in the kitchen, and he snapped a photo when she saw her birthday gift. She burst out laughing, a rare thing for her and a happy memory for me.