August 10, 2009
A new iron
Inspired by an iron. Really.
I grew up with a couple of powerhouse grandmothers. Grandma Edith came to live with us during the summer of 6th grade. She was a force to be reckoned with. Through her eyes, she executed her responsibility to me, by passing on the details of good housekeeping. (Be 12 with this gift.) Beyond the proud scrubbing and waxing of floors, furniture polishing and window washing, was ironing.
Grandma took the time to teach the details. Start with the collar of the shirt and finish there too. Be sure the iron is hot. Rub it, quickly, against wax paper if it sticks and if it really sticks, skid across a piece of beeswax. Iron the damask linen tablecloth and the embroidered pillowcases upside down, into a turkish towel to bring out the detail. And then there were the sheets. Folded in 4 and turned as I went.
Grueling? Some days. But other days, it was brilliant. Time alone. Time to think. And a small accomplishment. I do like the small accomplishments.
(The Yellow Door Paperie, a great blog, shares a quote by Vincent Van Gogh I've always loved: Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together. )
So, though I'm surrounded by plenty of dryer-to-hanger clothes, I'm (gratefully) accompanied by the few pieces that call for the iron. My son enjoys wearing a dress shirt once in a while, and cloth napkins are on our table each day.
My grandmother's iron is long gone. And when it went, the black and white fabric cord, and heavy metal wonder went with it. For our wedding, someone gave us the modern, lightweight, plasticized version. New, white, and really, really light. I've used it for the last minute finish on something that stayed in the dryer too long. Or my favorite linen shirt. But, truly, found no joy in the finish.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a new Rowenta. Highly recommended, heavy in hand, metal on the face, and steam from tapwater. I bought it with the zest that one might save for a the perfect pair of shoes or a new leather wallet.
Home it came with all it's weight and promise. I spent an hour or so, going over a couple of the boy's just-a bit-wrinkly shirts, ironed the couple of tablecloths resignedly folded in the drawer and then, with great enthusiasm went for the napkins.
Maybe it's the enjoyment of fabric. The layers on the rose red damask napkins. Or the lay of the vintage Robin's Egg linen tablecloth. The touch of the Ralph Lauren floral chintz napkins that seem 100 years old. The polish on the periwinkle cotton shirt.
Or perhaps it's the job-well-done echoing from years ago in my mother's kitchen at the ironing board with the beeswax.
But in many ways, the iron seems to have given rise to a crisp awareness of both color and order. Corners meeting. Books on a shelf. Flatware neatly framing the dishes on the table.
And a movement toward the pleasure of that which is regular and orderly.
Really, an iron.
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