Counting the wrinkles

Counting the wrinkles
A tool of domination

Wrinkled clothes, that is.

The Joliat girls are extraordinary ironers.  It was an Irish/Catholic school/uniform blouse/child management legacy- who really knows? But as soon as we were tall enough to stand up to the ironing board- we ironed.

Our learner’s permit was earned on hankies and pillow cases.  We set up the board in the dining room, where Mom could watch us.  Mom liked a neat linen closet, so we ironed sheets, too. (All twin beds, YAY! It was the Lucy and Ricky era)  Cotton goods were sprinkled, rolled and placed in a plastic bag with a zipper.

Then the countdown started.  It was an artificial deadline, to be sure, but the clothes had to be ironed before they mildewed.  The girls were the battle front.

I can still remember the shirt ironing lessons: Start with the back of collar,then front of collar from the points inward to avoid pleating.  Next shoulder plackets front, plackets back.  Sleeves, front and back, then cuffs, with care not to melt buttons or create folds.  Then, and last of all- the body of the shirt, from the right breast to the left.  Mom liked the pleats in back ironed down all the way.

Finished work was hung on the door jamb for inspection. One year Mom got a nifty attachment that allowed shirts to be cantilevered on an arm attached to the board. It bowed under the weight of the Joliat’s clothes.

We never wore a shirt twice.  We were not going to be judged by dirty cuffs or food stained plackets.

Good God, there were shirts. Six kids, 5 uniform shirts or blouses daily.  Dad: 6 dress shirts weekly. Also a mountain of pants, sheets, skirts…and this started well before the perm press era.  God, how I loved perm press, despite an allergy to its active ingredient which made my legs and arms break out in little bumps.  And polyester was an Hallelujah moment for me.  Summer offered respite from the uniform stuff, and Dad wore short sleeves.  Mom added dusting and vacuuming as daily drudgery to keep us busy.

As kids, Jenny and I would bicker over who completed more items.  We knew it was wrong that the boys never did dishes or laundry or dusting or vacuuming, but we lacked the feminist gene.  I would have traded for their meager allotment of chores(garbage out on Thursday night, grass in the summer) in a nano second.  I wonder to this day if Mike or Paul can iron. (can,, unlikely)

In my adult life, I have avoided high-ironing garments, gravitating to T shirt material, jeans and jersey.  I logged too many hours. But I have respect for the process of taming something unruly, dominating disorder. I am always prepared to iron.

My sister Marie has carried on the Joliat ultimate ironing tradition in her basement.  She lives in our childhood home….yeah, we Joliats cling to our past despite the elements of indentured servitude that I am highlighting in this post.   Must be something in the walls: she is a nurse, and despite the perm press nature of scrubs, she irons every single uniform, as well as every item she or her husband wears. She does not shy from natural fibers, as I do. She has upgraded from dining room view to a TV view, and she probably multi-tasks by knocking off a TV show as she dominates unruly clothing. She has the German work ethic that I missed.

I gladly proffer the Ironing Queen crown to her. But…I have ironing tools at the ready: spray starch, good iron, hanger stack, cup for adding water, door jamb. I don’t cotton to those racks for hanging the iron off the end. If you have a good cover, the iron can rest on it for a moment- it adds steam, and the hot resulting surface doubles the efficiency of the strokes.  The iron must be rested as you are shifting the garment, to avoid overheating and scorching. (See?  Mom was a great teacher)

I bought my ironing board in 1975, at an estate sale. I was moving out, and searching for household necessities.  It was really an ironing table, adjustable to various heights, perforated to enhance steam. I expect it had been in that household for a generation. I have a new respect for its faithful sturdiness.

Farewell, old friend.

Farewell, old friend.

I have ironed the wrinkles out of my kids’ lives upon it.  I have spruced Steve up with it.  I taught the boys how to iron on it.

Last week, I plugged in the Rowenta and set it up, and the welds that hold the legs just broke away. It was the end of the road for my trusty board. I put my pile of wrinkledom in the linen closet, and started looking for a replacement.

To say they don’t make ’em like they used to is a cliche, and it is also true. My search for Ironingboard.2 took me from the basics to $150 tables (Marie, you need this) that promise an euphoric experience.

Ah, I am a Joliat- I know there is no euphoria in ironing. But I also know, when life hands you wrinkles, you have to smooth them, dammit.

Old board went to the dump, and I bought a half assed replacement at Target. Ironing is out of favor in this era of $1.00 dry cleaning and steam contraptions.

(People, do not EVER think that steaming brings the same crisp look to your garments. It is a lie.)

I did not get a cover, which is necessary to trap steam. I consider this board a placeholder, unworthy but at the ready. It would topple over if I added any accessories, like a cord holder or hanger arm. It has been on its maiden ironing voyage.

I cannot control the universe, but I can create order, one shirt at a time. Perhaps I will upgrade someday.  Or get a cute teflon lined cover. (Kids and Steve- this is not an item I want for Christmas, birthday, or ANY gifting occasion) I just might haunt a few estate sales and see if I can locate an old school, height adjustable perforated table with a wide platform and sharp nose for those shoulders….

For the moment, however, I am pleased to be unrumpled.


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