In our house, ironing was a coming-of-age thing. For me. Not for my luckier brother. When I was deemed capable, I was permitted to iron pillowcases and sheets, then, as my skills advanced to the painstaking techniques for lace and embroidery, handkerchiefs. Eventually my parents bought an ironer, “mangle” to some, which meant two people could iron at one time. Whee. I sat at the ironer feeding bedlinen, underwear, and linen towels into its hot maw, opened and closed by my knee, while my mother stood nearby at the ironing board, deftly wielding point and heel of the iron into gathers and over cuffs.
I officially, unsubtly hated it. If there were anything worse than being cooped up in the kitchen with my mother ironing my life away, I didn’t know what it could have been. “The Romance of Helen Trent” and “Ma Perkins,” crackling from the radio, did not cheer me.
Mom started teaching. Routine changed, but even when teaching Mom insisted everything be ironed because — she said — our house was so small; ironing flattened things so they took up less room in drawers and closets. Maybe. But family jokes morphed the ironing board into Mom’s Linus blanket while my friends were warning one another never to stand still at our house lest they be ironed by Mrs. O’Hern. Mom was one with the board! (She did not share our merriment in this matter.)
Then one day Mom and Dad were dead and I had to empty their house. I stared at Old Ironsides, that Death Star of an ironing board that stood for another age. I kept it, of course, and have lugged it cross-country. Yes, I iron on it, and somewhere — I just know it — my mother sniggers smugly.