Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Update: I pulled out my bottle of bluing this afternoon. It's a Mrs. Stewart's (unsmiling pioneer-looking woman) "standard of excellence since 1883" brand made in Bloomington, Minnesota. It contains 8 oz of "concentrated liquid bluing, non-toxic and bio-degradable". A few drops are all that are needed and "water should appear a light sky-blue color." Wow, it says it can be used in swimming pools, bird baths, for white hair and pets, for cleaning crystal and glass and more! It also says it can be used for science projects, scout troops, school rooms and family fun! (My guess is somebody added that and the toxic/biodegradable stuff way after Mrs. Stewart passed away to a laundromat in the sky.)

It's hard to believe now, thinking back, that laundry occupied two entire days of my mother's schedule every week, but it did. That's between cooking, washing dishes, mopping floors (especially in the winter when, if you opened the South door, the soot came back down the chimney and puffed throughout the kitchen), making bread, changing all the wallpaper every other year, raising a big garden, helping with the farm, serving her church, shopping, sewing, mending socks over a light bulb, mowing the huge yard, etc. The etc was no cinch, either.

By Tuesday, the clothes were either gathered from the line out back in the summer, or from clothes racks inside the house, in the winter. (Randy Howell and I often raced back and forth between the clothes rack while Mother ironed. We must have been as small as miniature collies back then...and as flexible as that Asian actor in Mission Impossible. It would indeed be an impossible mission these days.)

Mother would sprinkle water on the clothes (in those lined fruit baskets) prior to ironing, supposedly to help decrease the wrinkling. Keep in mind that absolutely nothing was made out of anything but cotton back then, so everything was ironed, including sheets, pillowcases, levis and handkerchiefs. Maybe towels and washclothes escaped. They were always considered "fresh" when they were hung out to dry. I don't blame the women, because it was one less thing to do. I'd have pretended to like the "freshness", too...maybe even come to actually like it, all things considered. We let Mother do almost all the ironing, but could sometimes be talked into "helping" iron some square things, like the pillowcases and handkerchiefs. I remember when she got some of those metal levi-shaper things you shoved down the leg, then stretched a bit to give the pants some shape...happy day!

Which is PRECISELY why I do NONE of these things in my own home. I loathe crispy "fresh" face-scraping towels and truly believe there is no such thing as a bath towel too luxurious or soft.

If someone said one word about their levis not being ironed, they wouldn't say it twice, there being an iron stuffed in their face. Last night Kyle and I were talking about Thurl Bailey's suit-pocket handkerchiefs. I said something about them never being used. He said, "Why would anybody use a handkerchief? How gross! Use a tissue."

You see, there has been progress over the decades in this 2-day laundry thing. First of all, they've developed fabrics that don't need ironing, even melt if ironed. It's a fairly well-known fact that if a shirt comes out of the dryer wrinkled, you just rinse it and throw it back in, maybe with a wet towel. Wash it a third time if you have a bad memory or busy schedule. If it gets to be too much work, well, Folks, it just ain't worth it. Hang it in the back of your closet or pass it on to someone who loves to iron. Or start a new style, like the corncob skirts.

I remember a college student dressed to the T, or the 9s (that means very well, to you younguns".) He gave a 2 1/2-minute talk (yes, those used to exist) about how things can appear to be something they aren't. The only other thing I remember is that he took off his jacket, and the part of the shirt that showed when he wore the jacket, still looked perfect. The rest of the shirt was trashed. So, men, you might want to consider giving an impromptu talk if you're ever caught in this predicament. Or, you could invest in one of those wonderful Mr. Mac wrinkle-free white shirts. Or wait til Thurl has a yard sale.

Anyway, hat's off to the women of yore! You taught all us other women that washers and dryers and dryer sheets are as important as toothbrushes.

And, Mother, I truly apologize.

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