I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
I couldn’t remember how to iron a shirt this morning.
She had a whole ironing sequence. First, I learned how to iron handkerchiefs. My father carried handkerchiefs in his pocket (still does, I think) and she would have me iron them. A square of fabric is a pretty tough thing to mess up.
Then I advanced to pillowcases. Yes, we ironed the cotton pillowcases. A double rectangle of fabric was a logical progression.
Third was doilies and table runners. This meant I had moved from beginner ironing to intermediate. Ironing lace and eyeleted doilies required the use of press cloth, a piece of fabric that we soaked in water, then wrung out and placed over the object to be ironed. I think many of our press cloths were old cloth diapers.
Advanced ironing was a men’s dress shirt. I had arrived when I was shown how to iron a dress shirt.
“First, flatten the yoke of the shirt on the ironing board and press it. Then the collar.” My mother demonstrated and watched me do the first several.
Everything had to be done in the exact same order. I hope I get it right now, because, when I went to iron a shirt this morning, I drew a blank. It’s either early Alzheimer’s or the fact that permanent press has virtually eradicated the need for most ironing.
I think this is the order, though: yoke — collar — sleeves — back panel — front panels. Then we had to hang it on a hanger, just so.
I’m sure my mother had been taught to iron shirts by her mother. And I’m sure my grandmother was taught by her mother. My great-grandmother took in laundry from the wealthy folk on the north shore of Boston. My great-grandfather was a bushelling tailor. Between the two of them, ironing was probably an art form.
And now I have dropped the ball.
Have I taught my children how to iron a shirt? I don’t think so, because I’m having troubling remembering how to myself.
Alzheimer’s question — if I put an ironing board in front of my mother and an iron, would she remember?