Woman had daughter iron everything in the laundry, until she used too much spray starch

Lefty Graves

** This article is based on nonfiction by actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission

Growing up, my brother, sister, and I always had chores. Our mother worked full-time, and our father was a pastor at a local church. Our house was expected to be spotless in case someone from church ever stopped by for emergency counseling or any other reason.

There were always gossips in the church, and my mother lived in mortal fear that someone would stop by and give our house the ‘white glove’ treatment and then tell the entire church and community that our house was dirty. My brother, sister, and I were kept busy dusting and polishing every flat surface.

We also had other chores. One of the chores that my mother insisted on was ironing. Each of us kids had our list of chores; mine included ironing. My sister was the one that threw the laundry into the washer, my brother put things into the dryer, and I had to do the ironing. I wasn’t too happy because the ironing took much longer than washing or drying. I did draw the line at ironing my jeans. My mother thought that they should all have a crease down the center of the leg, and I hated that, so I wouldn’t iron my jeans.

I pondered all kinds of ways to get out of ironing, but my mother was always a step ahead of me. If I stayed home from school sick and dared to get out of bed, I was told to iron until I needed to lay back down. My mother's argument was that the steam would help clear my head and sinuses.

My mother always had several cans of spray starch on hand. She wanted each and every collar starched to perfection. She spent over an hour showing me how she wanted me to starch my father’s shirt collars and her dress collars. She told me not to be stingy about the starch and to use plenty to ensure that the collars would stand up perfectly.

One afternoon I was ironing, and my mother had put not only my father's handkerchiefs into the ironing basket but also my father's boxer shorts. I liberally sprayed the spray starch on my father's handkerchiefs, neatly ironing them into quarters. I pressed the iron neatly on the kerchief each time I folded it, ensuring a good crisp crease. Then, I did the same to my father's boxer shorts. As I folded the boxers, I liberally sprayed starch on the boxers and creased them crisply with the iron, just as my mother had told me to do.

As I sat at the breakfast table the next morning, I was sure my mother would be proud of me for pressing everything so neatly. So imagine my shock when my father told my mother that he didn’t think I should iron and starch his boxers or his handkerchiefs any longer.

My mother frowned and asked my father what he was talking about. He brought in a pair of boxers that nearly stood up tall on their own. Finally, I was relieved of ironing, well, at least part of the ironing. My mother laughed and told me that maybe she needed to go through the ironing basket and lighten the load.

I never had to iron my father's boxers or handkerchiefs again and was down to only ironing his dress shirts and slacks. I also had to iron my mother’s dresses for work. I still had to iron sheets (they weren’t permanent press back then) and other linens periodically. Today, to my mother's horror, I don’t iron anything; I simply toss it in the dryer and then hang it up to prevent wrinkles. What about you? Did you have to iron?

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction recovery, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming, and an eclectic mix of other topics. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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