Ancient Comforts…

It all started when I decided to clean out the linen closet…

and found this old bottle of linen water. It made me remember the days when my babies were little, when I used to iron…every Tuesday. I can just see the long row of shirts and dresses lined up in the kitchen smelling of lavender and starch.

Yes, I know. People don’t actually do that anymore.

It’s a shame too, really.

There’s something comforting about taking a crumpled, wrinkly thing  and making it smooth and crisp and warm and lovely, even when–perhaps especially when–you don’t really have to.

My mama knew that.

Years ago, she used to pay us five cents for every pillow case that we kids pressed and folded and stacked in the hall cupboard.  Handkerchiefs were a penny. Of course, Laurie got the big money ironing daddy’s dress shirts—at twenty-five cents a piece. But I was the pillowcase girl.

We didn’t have Linen Water or anything fancy back then. Just a sprinkle jug and a big safety pin to keep the cord out of the way, and a note pad and pencil to add up all the nickles.

I earned a Twist & Turn Barbie just like that. She cost $3.69 and it took from May clear till fireworks before I had enough money to bring her home.

From that day on, I’ve loved the smell of ironing.

Mama told us a story once about a fancy lady she knew, when she was little, that loved ironing so much that she even ironed her sheets–just because she wanted to.

Sheets! Can you imagine?

That’s just silly.

But I discovered this very day, that even though you can, of course, get by without ironing anything–for a long, long time–there is a soothing rhythm to the motion and the warmth and the order…

that, for me, was worth finding again.

It smells curiously like a brand new Barbie…

and crisp, lavender sheets.

19 Replies to “Ancient Comforts…”

  1. I so wish people ironed again, especially when dressing up and being your best for church time or a wedding etc. Sometimes it looks as if they actually slept in their clothes and makes you wonder if they really care about being there. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, just a little practice, and then you can head out with head up and knowing you look great. My mom had a big contraption that you sat at and rolled things through to press them – it worked great for sheets, but she could actually do my dad’s shirts to. Alas, I was the pillow case girl on that one.

  2. I don’t like ironing. However, when I put John’s shirts in the craft room (since that is where the iron is kept because I use it more for quilting than anything) he goes in and gets them out and wears the wrinkly shirts. *sigh*

  3. Guilty as charged… I don’t ever iron. I probably should since even the “wrinkle-free” clothes could sometimes use a little help.

    I remember doing it as a kid too though. I didn’t mind doing the straight thing like pillowcases… but I wasn’t really a fan of doing shirts.

  4. Oh Launi, You picked such an interesting topic today! I never iron unless I have too. Sometimes, wrinkle free is NOT wrinkle free! 🙂 But I remember my mother ironing to the music of the Beetles on many a summer afternoon. I love the idea of letting the kids earn money to make things look pretty. What a sense of accomplishment for them!

  5. For the first time in a long time, I got ALL of our church clothes ironed this past Sunday. It was nice. I didn’t have to cringe every time I looked at Jacob’s white shirt, and I wasn’t straightening the hem of Lily’s dress all through the meeting. That’s not to say I didn’t have other distractions, like, say, Goldfish crackers being dumped on the floor between pews, but hey, my skirt looked pretty darn good while I was crawling around on the floor. 🙂

  6. It not their fault if they’ve never really known how good it feels to have crisp clothes. That’s the sad part. Plus, some people are so into organic and natural that they believe the fabric is just suppose to be all wrinkly too. Not us, because we’ve seen the difference.

  7. It’s hard sometimes when the kids are little. But I used to set the ironing board up right in the middle of wherever the kids were because there were always a million dress shirts to iron. I didn’t mind it actually–but then I was used to it too.

  8. Your silly mom should have given you more experience. Ha ha! At least we try to take them out of the dryer fast.


  9. I ironed clothes until halfway through college I realized how hard the extra heat was on clothing lifespan. Now, I either try to get things out of the dryer, smoothed, and hung up super promptly, or hung out to dry on a rack with the seams arranged just so. Not that any of that has gone super well since getting pregnant with Elsa, but I suppose I have bigger problems.

  10. Seriously, it’s how we earned everything back then. I remember one time feeling total despair that the ironing was all caught up so I had to look for other ways to earn money.
    We used to come home to my mom ironing in the kitchen, listening to talk tapes or General Conference on the radio–back in the days when it started on Friday. It was a comforting feeling to know that she would be right there in that one place for a while so we could cook or just talk. Good memories for me.

  11. You crack me up! But really though, didn’t it feel great? I pressed the ties on all my dresses and it felt wonderful. I even ironed a couple of the aprons that you made us. I’m on to the tablecloths next.


  12. Yeah, it’s pretty low priority when you have babies–that’s for sure. It was a nostalgic mood I tell you. I was ready to iron the underware. It just felt fun, so I did it.


  13. I come from a family where my mom ironed everything. including sheets and underwear. She would iron for hours every week. Now that I am grown and have a young family of my own, I don’t have the time to iron everything, but realize that some things are meant to be wrinkle-free. My husband’s dress shirts and slacks and my kids’ church clothes are much more important to be wrinkle free than my yoga pants. I pick and choose. My sheets might be wrinkly, but my family always looks good. I thought it was just kind of a given that people ironed their dress clothes, though when we go out in freshly ironed clothes we always get comments about the creases and that we’re “fancy” because we iron. eh. there is something comforting about the repetitive motion and the order of everything after it is finished.

  14. I ironed the eyelet on my sheets the other day–and I must tell you–I felt just like a rich lady. Isn’t that funny? It was a really interesting feeling, and I loved it.

  15. We have very few things that would ever need ironing. I enjoy the task, but there just is not much to do. We don’t dress up for church, my husband works as a technician, not in an office, and has no work clothes that require ironing, our bedding is largely jersey knit and doesn’t need to be ironed, and I can’t imagine ironing sheets anyway. I used to pull the iron out once in a while to do a tablecloth or table cover, but I don’t think I’ve ironed more than once in the 3 years since we moved to this house. Our lifestyle just doesn’t really require an iron.

  16. Yes, I can see how that could be the case. I have quite a few wrinkly cotton things–from my mom and from just being alive a long time. ha ha. So we need the iron a bit more.

  17. I used to iron quite a bit and found it a lot more rewarding than most kinds of housework, but for the last 25 years clothes have come out of the dryer presentable enough for me, except for a very few things, and since any heat producing appliance uses quite a bit of energy, it doesn’t make much sense to do any more ironing than I have to. Over 25 years time think of the hours and dollars I saved by skipping that little chore, not to mention the reduced environmental impact.

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