I love to iron. I know that is crazy. I hate washing dishes, cleaning toilets, or most of the tasks that come with “housekeeping.” But ironing is different. It all goes back to when I was a little girl.
I remember when I learned to iron. I was six years old, the oldest of five at that point in time. My dad was in Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I have hazy memories of those days on post. We lived in a red brick ancient house surrounded by a zillion other kids my age. I loved first grade with Mrs. Wilson. That was the year I learned to read: “See Dick run. There is a plane. Peter is the pilot.” It was a time right out of the Donna Reed Show. Everything was calm with no worries in sight. I had no way of knowing two years later he would be involved with the Cuban Missile Crisis and then begin serving in Vietnam.
My dad wore his uniform every day of course and the care and maintenance of them were quite challenging. In those days we called BDUs fatigues-and even they were starched and pressed. My mother was overwhelmed with a constant pile of laundry that resulted from a houseful of small children. As the oldest I wanted to help and so I began ironing handkerchiefs. ( Does anyone besides my husband carry ironed handkerchiefs anymore? ) Then I graduated to my dad’s pants and finally his shirts. I remember being so proud that I could help my mom and be part of making my dad look so good.
Later on as my own houseful of children grew I too coped with mounds of laundry that included uniforms. I grabbed the other stuff out of the dryer quickly to avoid ironing, but those uniforms got special care. Whether they were Boy Scout shirts or team jerseys, I stood and smoothed away any wrinkles as I moved the iron back and forth. When they came home from the Naval Academy on leave I would repeat that task. It was as if I ironed I could send them out in an armor of care.
Now I wish I could be there to iron their shirts and press in their pants creases. When I see them turned out in their splendid best it is one more piece of evidence that they have grown up and don’t need me in the ways they used to. And that is good-I have never wanted to clip their wings. But when I am ironing and making things look new again it makes me long for the days when I could do that in real life. The days when a cookie and a hug from mom made everything better.
Now when I iron I use it as a time of mediation and prayer. I imagine smoothing out the challenges of life and reflect on days gone by. And I pray that the wrinkles of life will be overcome. Because life is messy and sometimes you just need to stand still, do something mindless, and reflect on simpler times when you could keep everyone safe.