Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Zen and the Art of Handkerchief Maintenance

I've passed the baton! Er . . . that is, I've passed the iron! My son John just learned how to iron his own handkerchiefs. It might seem like an easy task to iron a square piece of cloth, but ironing is an art, and it's better to start with something simple.

Of all household chores, I like ironing best, although I don't get to do much of it anymore. I began ironing my father's handkerchiefs and the wide inverted pleats of my uniform skirts when I was ten years old.  In Cuba, most of our clothing was made of cotton or linen, fabrics that are cool and comfortable in the tropical climate, but that look horrible if not pressed.

There's nothing like a freshly pressed garment.  Permanent Press, although handy in some instances, just does not leave clothing looking as crisp.  As a teenager, I took over the ironing for my family - especially my father's handkerchiefs.  My father was steadfast in his use of handkerchiefs.  The concept of a paper tissue left him bewildered.  Slowly, however, the number of garments that I was ironing dwindled as polyester took over our lives - and I began working!

Ironing returned to my life when my kids began attending Catholic school.  Their white Oxford button-down shirts needed to be pressed continually.  Those shirts used to take such a beating! White shirts and little boys are not a good combination.  Each of the boys went through a lot of shirts every week - sometimes two a day, one in the morning, and a clean one when they returned to school after lunch. 

I pressed a lot of shirts during those years.  And then I figured since the ironing board was out, I may as well press their jeans, and their polo shirts, and my husbands . . . and on and on . . .

The truth is that I love ironing, especially after I discovered the Rowenta steam iron. Even now, I can feel myself going into a trance the moment I hear the steam hiss.  Ironing is a great way to meditate, and when you are finished, you not only feel your equilibrium restored, you also end up with some nicely pressed clothes.

John did a nice job ironing his handkerchiefs, but the lesson needs to be repeated. You can't learn how to meditate properly with just one try, and you can't perfect a crease without some practice.

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