Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ironing with Mollie!!!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this Mollie hates the chore of ironing. And, yes, it's a chore with endless possibilities for the ultimate pain in life, be it burns, turned ankles, wringer injuries and bruised egos.

When I was wee, I was impressed by my Grandmother's procedure for ironing. First, she'd put the laundry through the wringer washer. When I was watching her (I was about 4 years old) she told me stories about doing laundry with her mom (that was in the late 1800's). It was when nobody had a washing machine, let alone wringer washers! I was impressed to my core because at my own home (mid-1950's) my mother had the ultimate in conveniences, an electric washer AND a dryer.

My grandmother had 5 children, 4 of 'em boys, and laundry was a major work in the 1920's. She had the huge drum where she washed clothes, a manual wringer where she'd pass the wet clothes through, removing excess water, and TWO clotheslines, one in the back yard and one "down cellar." One of the laundry stories she'd scare me with is when she added boiling water to the diapers and scalded herself. In those days, you'd add water with a huge kettle, not pvc pipes. Imagine that! And the bleaching stories . . .

And there was no gym to go to, but she managed to keep her arms toned by 'agitating' the laundry manually. And yes, this was before disposable diapers, so imagine how "agitating" agitating could be. And if I were a restless little person, she'd terrify me with stories of how she'd gotten her braid caught in the wringer - I still wake up shaking.

But time had marched on, and now she owned her own electrical washing machine with a built in agitator and wringer, and all worked electrically. She still had to add her own boiling water, but with most of the physical labor done electrically, a woman with 4 preschoolers and a baby gestating could manage much more on limited energy. She approved of my mother's electrical devices, but wasn't rushing to Sears to buy a dryer when clothes dried perfectly well the old fashioned way.

And my grandmother hung her laundry in a special way. On the inside of the clothesline, she'd hang her "dainties" as she called them, and then surrounded them with towels, outer clothing, etc. No neighbor was EVER treated to a view of her underwear, or anybody else's for that matter. She lived in the Pacific Northwest, where it rained almost daily, so having clotheslines in the cellar was a blessing, so slow drying protracted everything~

And my grandmother ironed EVERYTHING! Tea towels, shirts, work clothes, socks and, yes, dainties. By the time I hit the scene in the 50's my grandmother had an electric iron. But when she was a child, the iron was heated on the stove top. I sometimes try to imagine myself pregnant, exhausted by kids and the washing and air drying, only to be faced with the next laborious step. Standing at the board, with swelling feet, a hot iron, and little busy children was onerous. Thankfully, by the time the clothes had "dried" a day had passed so she could postpone ironing for 24 hours. And she could do it upstairs, so she could heat her iron on the stove when she was younger didn't have an electrical iron.

My grandmother still had an ice-box when I was little, not a refrigerator. First thing in the morning, she'd haul the still moist clean clothes upstairs and begin the process. First, she'd separate the laundry, and roll the majority of it, then place it in the fridge. This kept things moist (not wet, mind you) while she started the process. She'd roll laundry by placing small items inside of towels and then roll them into a cylinder. She'd stack the cylinders in the fridge and then start with items that were mostly dry already.

She had a sprinkler bottle (nary a spray bottle existed that I can recall), and would moisten things that were too dry. Then, one by one, she'd iron every sock, rag, towel and dainty that had come upstairs.

I remember the piles of ironed clothes on her kitchen table, the sprinkling of the water on clothes, adding starch to sprinkle water when you needed it, etc. And, yes, she even starched her dainties.

These days, if it ain't permanent press, it ain't bought. But I still find it reassuring that table clothes, napkins and such are ironed. I'm always trying to remember to hang the permanent press immediately after drying, but sometimes I fail, and I find myself ironing. And since I sew, I find myself ironing during that process as well.

So today, I'm enjoying my monthly ironing spree. First go the tablecloths and table napkins, followed by a couple of shirts that recently escaped my attention during the drying process. I may spend a whole hour ironing. But I find that doing ironing while listening to the news (and I do have CNN blaring in the background telling us about the uprising in Egypt), is therapeutic.

And doing laundry is therapeutic. You can remove stains and right what's wrong with the world in one fell swoop

You can face insurgency armed with an iron and a can of spray starch.

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