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This is for Christine and other fellow ironers:

Every ironing mama knows that her best thoughts often come while pressing clothes. Whether it’s the perfect retort to an earlier slight, an inspiration about home organization or a book she’s been tossing around in her head, thoughts flow when the steam blows through the iron. For me, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even iron without first grabbing a pencil and piece of paper to jot down ideas.

When I iron, thoughts spew like a Mt. Vesuvius eruption. First the stressful thoughts manifest themselves — I have to grade the girls’ schoolwork. Have I signed up my son for that next SAT? Did I send in the payment for ballet? What’s for dinner and do I have the ingredients in my fridge? Will I have time to stop at the grocery store before picking up my daughter? Is there even gas in the van?

I could go on and on, but most busy moms can fill in the blanks themselves because the ideas are basically the same. Press, press. Fold, fold. Hang, hang. Jot, jot. After those thoughts are released from the brain, the more philosophical musings begin to flow. Hmm, I’ll ponder, why is it that right when you figure out one child’s development challenge, it’s over and another begins? Why does time go so slowly when you’re a young but speed like a bullet once you’ve reached middle-age? How can God always eternally have been? I just don’t get that. Hmmm …

When I’m ironing, grand plans enter my mind. You know, I think to myself, I could clean out the boys’ room, paint the old furniture a navy blue and maybe find some nautical hardware to replace the ugly, dull handles. Or, I’ll muse, I could organize a cookbook project at the high school with the proceeds to benefit the scholarship fund. It would be divided according to sport, with entries like Champion Chile in the football section. I wonder how many recipes would be necessary to make it profitable.

Most recently my grand plans have included writing an inspirational book about families who have homeschooled their children. There would be lots of stories. They would be funny, touching and all true. Maybe these would motivate people to keep going and press on when life gets difficult. These ideas are many, and my follow-up is generally not consistent, but sometimes I do accomplish something from these thoughts — the book idea, for example.

What I like about ironing is that I’m accomplishing something physical, while my mind is free. I do admit to burning the inside of my arm when I was particularly caught up in some thought, but usually I emerge from ironing with no injuries, just freshly pressed, neat clothes, great ideas, resolve and a more organized mind.

Some women have given up ironing completely. I would never! I need this thinking time to, well, blow off steam. When I’m stressed, there’s something soothing about conquering wrinkles. When life seems spinning out of control, I know I’m in charge when I wield the iron. I’m in command of each arm sleeve, each hem of a skirt. When I say “enough is enough,” it is! I can make any skirt stand stiff or decide I’m done. No explanations are necessary. I like that.

Perhaps the greatest benefit I have found of ironing, though, is that it offers me a chance to talk to God specifically and regularly about each person in my family. Once I have gotten past the eruptive thoughts, the philosophical musings and the grand plans, I settle into a peace, of sorts. I pray. As I reach in the basket for an article of clean, wrinkled clothing I immediately think of the person I love who wears it. “This is Matthew’s. Oh God, bless him during this stressful junior year. Help him to feel Your presence as he prepares for finals. Help him make a good college choice.”

The shirt is hung, and I reach for another — this time my husband’s shirt. I pause and close my eyes. “God bless this man I love. He carries such a heavy burden supporting us financially and spiritually during these tough economic and moral times.”

My mom ironed T-shirts. Her mom ironed pillowcases and underwear. I don’t go that far. But I do like to iron, and I like the thoughts and inspirations that come with it. In earlier years I never would have thought that ironing would help me be organized or improve my prayer life, but it does.

Press on!

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